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In Global change biology

There is deepening interest in how microclimatic refugia can reduce species threat, if suitable climatic conditions are maintained locally, despite global climate change. Microclimates are a particularly important consideration in topographically heterogeneous landscapes, while in some habitats, such as forests and woodlands, microclimates are also extremely labile and affected by management practices that could consequently be used to offset climate change impact. This study explored a conservation priority guild - cyanolichen epiphytes in temperate rainforest - quantifying the niche response to macroclimate, and landscape or woodland stand structures that determine the microclimate. Based on epiphyte survey in a core region of European temperate rainforest (western Scotland), a 'random forest' machine-learning model confirmed a strong cyanolichen response to summer dryness, as well as the effects of distance to running water, topographic heatload, and tree species identity, which modify the local moisture regime and/or lichen growth rates. By quantifying this response to macroclimate, landscape and stand structures, it was possible to estimate an extent to which woodland may be expanded in the future, in order to offset a negative effect of increasing summer dryness projected through to the 2080s. Using current policy as a yardstick, sufficient woodland expansion could be delivered relatively quickly for median impacted sites, but with times to woodland delivery extending over 10 years, 20 years and 25 years for sites at the 75th , 90th and 95th percentiles of cyanolichen decline. Furthermore, the extent of new woodland required, and delivery times, increase almost threefold on average, as new woodland becomes distributed over wider riparian zones. These contrasting implications emphasise an urgent need for afforestation that achieves targeted spatial planning responsive to microclimates as refugia.

Ellis Christopher J, Eaton Sally

2021-Jan-09

climate change adaptation, epiphytes, microclimate, moisture index, reforestation, riparian woodland, summer drought