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Microhabitats Provide Refuge from Challenges of Climate Change

Paper Reviewed
Scheffers, B.R., Evans, T.A., Williams, S.E. and Edwards, D.P. 2015. Microhabitats in the tropics buffer temperature in a globally coherent manner. Biology Letters 10: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0819.

Introducing their revealing new study, Scheffers et al. (2015) note that "vegetated habitats contain a variety of fine-scale features that can ameliorate temperature extremes," although "the magnitude and extent of this buffering on a global scale remains unknown." And, therefore, they set about to assess the degree of temperature buffering provided by various microhabitats -- such as soil, logs, epiphytes and tree holes -- which they compared to nearby non-buffered macro-scale temperatures, based on the findings of 36 published studies that contained such information.

Searching these data archives, the four researchers found that the various microhabitats that had been studied "buffered temperature by 3.9°C and reduced maximum temperatures by 3.5°C," which buffering was "most pronounced in tropical lowlands where temperatures were most variable." And they therefore concluded that these microhabitats "should provide species with a local layer of protection that is not captured by traditional climate assessments, which are typically derived from macro-scale temperatures (e.g. satellites)."

In light of this likelihood, Scheffers et al. thus felt confident in suggesting that there is a pressing need "for a next generation of predictive models that account for species' ability to move within microhabitats to exploit favourable buffered microclimates."

Posted 12 January 2016