Erosion of refugia in the Sierra Nevada meadows network with climate change
Climate refugia management has been proposed as a climate adaptation strategy in the face of global change. Key to this strategy is identification of these areas as well as an understanding of how they are connected on the landscape. Focusing on meadows of the Sierra Nevada in California, we examined multiple factors affecting connectivity using circuit theory, and determined how patches have been and are expected to be affected by climate change. Connectivity surfaces varied depending upon the underlying hypothesis, although meadow area and elevation were important features for higher connectivity. Climate refugia that would promote population persistence were identified from downscaled climate layers, based on locations with minimal climatic change from historical conditions. This approach was agnostic to specific species, yielding a broad perspective about changes and localized habitats. Connectivity was not a consistent predictor of refugial status in the 20th century, but expected future climate refugia tended to have higher connectivity than those that recently deviated from historical conditions. Climate change is projected to reduce the number of refugial meadows on a variety of climate axes, resulting in a sparser network of potential refugia across elevations. Our approach provides a straightforward method that can be used as a tool to prioritize places for climate adaptation.