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Rock Outcrops Provide Biodiversity Refugia in Northern Patagonia

Paper Reviewed
Speziale, K.L. and Ezcurra, C. 2014. Rock outcrops as potential biodiversity refugia under climate change in North Patagonia. Plant Ecology & Diversity: 10.1080/17550874.2014.983200.

In attempting to learn whether rock outcrops of southern temperate latitudes could act as local refugia for cold-adapted flora in the face of global warming, Speziale and Ezcurra (2014) compared the species compositions of 50 individual rock outcrops in northwestern Patagonia, Argentina (located between 40°41' and 41°57' S latitude and between 70°33' and 71°22' W longitude), which they also compared with species compositions of the vegetation surrounding each of the 50 rock outcrops, along with climatic data at both local and regional scales, in order to determine if the species distributions reflected differences that could indicate the existence of rock outcrop climatic refugia.

This major effort revealed, in the words of the two researchers, that "southern faces of outcrops had different species and lower maximum temperatures than isolated north faces and surrounding vegetation plots." And, therefore, they concluded that "south faces of outcrops by providing cool microhabitats, and currently harboring species not found in the surrounding zonal vegetation matrix, could serve as local refugia for heat-intolerant plants and other microthermic organisms."

Consequently, Speziale and Ezcurra further write that "it is important to plan protected area networks that maximize local environmental heterogeneity, including the protection of rock outcrops both as refugia for cold-adapted species and as potential stepping stones that would allow dispersal of these species between supportive environments through unfavorable ones." Such findings lessen concerns of future flora species extinctions due to global warming.

Posted 25 August 2015