Skip to main content
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Conservation of Climate Change Refugia

Project Leader:
Project Investigators:
Jennifer Cartwright, U.S. Geological Survey
Rebecca Quinones, MassWildlife
Evan Grant, U.S. Geological Survey
Aaron Ramirez, Reed College
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New York
New Jersey
West Virginia
North Dakota
South Dakota
North Carolina
+27 more


The field of climate adaptation is still getting established, and guidelines and examples for how to manage for climate change on-the-ground are still rare. The concept of climate change refugia, areas buffered from climate change that enable persistence of valued resources, is being discussed as a potential adaptation option in the face of anthropogenic climate change. This project seeks to provide practical guidance for how to operationalize this concept and to work with stakeholders to help prioritize actions to conserve climate change refugia. In addition, I use the tools of ecological and climate modeling and historical field data to test predictions of climate change refugia in the Sierra Nevada of California.

Many resource managers and conservation organizations are looking to help their ecosystems, habitats and species adapt to climate change.  Climate change refugia can allow species to persist in the face of warming and changing precipitation regimes.  Managers are eager to learn how to implement these ideas. Preliminary results of mapped meadow refugia and connectivity in the Sierra Nevada match with wildlife population persistence and genetic diversity data.


Morelli, T.L., "Innovative Approaches for Identifying and Managing Climate-change Refugia", North American Conference for Conservation Biology (NACCB)  Zoom, July 30, 2020;
Morelli, T.L., "Climate Change Refugia: Biodiversity Change in the Slow Lane", NACCB. Zoom, July 30, 2020
Morelli, T.L., The Wildlife Society Conference Annual Meeting. Oct 2, 2019
Morelli, T.L., Climate change refugia for the conservation of fish and wildlife workshop," Incorporating Climate Change Refugia Into Climate Adaptation in the Acadia National Park Region" Acadia National Park. July 22, 2019.
​Morelli, T.L., Refugia Research Coalition special issue planning workshop. October 16-19 2018.
Morelli, T.L., Stony Brook University Department of Ecology and Evolution Seminar. March 3, 2018.
Morelli, T.L., "Climate Change Refugia Conservation Cycle", Boreal refugia meeting in Edmonton, Canada, presentation. Feb 28-29, 2018.
Morelli, T.L., "Translational Ecology: Doing Science that Matters", Indiana University seminar presentation. Feb 22, 2018.
Morelli, T.L., "A regional-scale approach for connecting refugia science to natural & cultural resource management", Ecological Society of America, Portland, OR. August 2017.
Morelli, T.L., "Climate Project Screening Tool" US Forest Service Region 5 Invited Webinar, Feb 15, 2017.
Morelli, T.L., "Managing Climate Change Refugia for Biodiversity Conservation", NAF, St Paul, MN. May 2017.
Morelli, T.L., "Conserving Climate Change Refugia as a Climate Adaptation Strategy" George Wright Symposium presentation, Norfolk VA. April 6, 2017.
Morelli, T.L., “Conserving Climate Change Refugia as a Climate Adaptation Strategy”, by request from the National Park Service, at the George Wright Symposium in Norfolk, VA. April 2017.
Morelli, T.L., Climate change refugia work, Annual meeting of the NEAFWA SWAP leaders, Hadley, MA, March 2017. Great interest from states as well as the North Atlantic LCC.
Morelli, T.L., "The Northeast Climate Science Center: Improving the Way Climate Science Informs Resource Management" 76th Annual Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Lincoln NE. Feb 7, 2017.
Morelli, T.L., "Climate-Influenced Species Range Shifts: Where Are We Headed?" Organized session at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco. Dec 2016.
Morelli, T.L., "Co-production of knowledge: managers and scientists working together for effective conservation in the face of climate change", Organized session for the Natural Areas Conference, Davis, CA. October 2016.
Morelli, T.L., "Managing Climate Change Refugia for Biodiversity Conservation" workshop at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii. July 2016.
Morelli, T.L., Presentation and organized session on climate change refugia, AGU December 2015 
Morelli, T.L., ESA, Baltimore. August 2015.
Morelli, T.L., "How to Prioritize Key Areas for Conservation Efforts in a Changing Climate: A Look at “Climate Refugia”  NCCWSC Seminar, December 8, 2015.
+16 more

Additional Resources

Report: "Climate Change Refugia." USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center. 2018

Resource: The Refugia Research Coalition Portal for the Northwest and Northeast


Undark, Climate Refugia: Safe Havens for Vulnerable Species, January 7, 2019.

Nature, Help to shape policy with your science August 28, 2018

Science Daily Coldwater streams may provide refuge against changing climate July 24, 2018

Mountain Views, Mapping Climate Change Refugia in the Sierra Nevada, page 7 (guest editorial, page 2), December, 2018. 

NE CSC News Announcing the Northeast Refugia Research Coalition, July 21, 2017

New England Public Radio Conservationists Try To Thwart Cliamte Change By Planting in Cold Spots June 21, 2017

NE CSC Regional Science Meeting Refugia Session Output List May 17, 2017

NE CSC News New Publication: Mapping Meadows of Climate “Refugia” in the Sierra Nevada  May 8, 2017

Wildlife Conservation Society Magazine  Steps to managing climate change refugia for wildlife  August 24, 2016

New England Public Radio Researchers At UMass Look For The Places That Climate Change Forgot, August 23, 2016

Gazette UMass researchers looking for places safe from climate change August 15, 2016

Lab Manager Managing Climate Change Refugia to Protect Wildlife August 11, 2016

Phys.Org Managing climate change refugia to protect wildlife August 10, 2016

Science Daily Managing Climate Change Refugia to Protect Wildlife August 10, 2016

Terra Daily Managing climate change refugia to protect wildlife August 10, 2016

NE CSC News New Publication: Managing Climate Change Refugia to Protect Wildlife  August 10, 2016

UMass Press Release  Managing Climate Change Refugia to Protect Wildlife August 10, 2016