Dynamic refugia and species persistence: tracking spatial shifts in habitat through time


  • Catherine H. Graham,

  • Jeremy VanDerWal,

  • Steven J. Phillips,

  • Craig Moritz,

  • Stephen E. Williams

C. H. Graham (cgraham@life.bio.sunysb.edu), Dept of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook Univ., Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA. – J. VanDerWal and S. E. Williams, Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook Univ., Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia. – S. J. Phillips, AT&T Labs-Research, 180 Park Ave, Floraham Park, NJ 07932, USA. – C. Moritz, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 3101 Valley Life Sciences Building, Univ. of California – Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Historical climate is known to influence contemporary patterns of biological diversity. Species distribution modeling methods, combined with paleoclimatic surfaces, have been used to identify regions that were likely stable across long periods of time. To date, this approach has produced a static representation of refugia by identifying regions of suitable climate across a series of time-slices. However, suitable habitat for a given species (or suite of species) may have shifted contiguously in response to changing climates through geologic time. We develop a new approach that takes into consideration habitat connectivity through time. We use the Australian Wet Tropics as a case study to demonstrate how our method works and suggest additional insights the method might give for understanding the determinants of biological diversity.