Determining Landscape Connectivity and Climate Change Refugia Across the Sierra Nevada

The goal of this research is to answer the question "Where are the key conservation areas to target in the face of climate change?"

Project Results

California natural resource managers need to develop climate change adaptation strategies to address the responses of species to overall warming trends and shifting precipitation regimes. The concept of climate change refugia, areas of more stable or buffered climate, has become of increasing interest but few studies have provided spatially explicit hypotheses of these refugia and even fewer have tested for them. In this project, we identified climate change refugia and connectivity between meadows across the Sierra Nevada and used data on persistence, stability, and genetic diversity of mammal populations to validate these hypotheses. Our results are helping managers to prioritize areas and landscapes that are critical to maintaining biodiversity in the Sierra Nevada in the face of climate change and to focus limited resources for effective adaptation efforts.

GIS results from this project-- mapped refugia and connectivity-- can be found here and on other data repositories. See our data on the CA LCC on

Project Documents

Ongoing Activities

How can these key areas be targeted by agencies?

  1. Regional workshop on climate change refugia: A 3-day workshop was held at UC Berkeley in May 2014 to bring together prominent scientists, natural resource managers, and decisions makers from across California. Presentations from ongoing research into climate refugia were interspersed with presentations from agency staff on how the CDFW, FWS, NPS, and USFS could incorporate the concept of climate change refugia into on-the-ground decisions.
  2. Targeted agency meetings: We are holding three workshops with key agency partners (primarily NPS and USFS, but including CDFW, FWS, and USGS) to communicate project outcomes directly to natural resource managers to aid in decisions from immediate, small-scale adaptation projects to region-wide changes in use, development, and planning for state and federal land management. These workshops were begun in December 2013 and are continuing in 2014.


U.S. Forest Service (USFS), National Park Service (NPS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are key participants in this research. We have contacts from each of these agencies with whom we have worked throughout the project and they have been critical to reaching and including the key managers and decision makers to help the project achieve the most success.

EcoAdapt has also been a partner in project outreach.

This project is funded by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative and supported by earlier research funded by the National Science Foundation.