Assessing the Capacity of Refugia for Climate Adaptation Strategy: A Case Study on the Cascades Ecoregion
Climate change is one of, if not the most, alarming phenomenon that challenges 21st-century global society. Scientists have acknowledged that mitigating the effects of climate change must involve employing a variety of strategies, such as reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions and investing in renewables. However, most climate scientists also acknowledge the importance of adaptation in the global response to climate change—a method of accepting certain impacts and proactively evolving to minimize their respective magnitudes. One area of research within the climate adaptation space that has gained scientific attention in recent years, is regions known as climate change refugia. Climate change refugia represent geographical spaces that are naturally buffered from the effects of macroclimatic changes to a certain extent due to their ecological and geological features, such as topography, specific species, and ecosystem services. Conserving spaces that have the potential to protect climate stability is a vital adaptation strategy to minimizing climate change impacts where possible. However, conserving these spaces requires research into how to identify regions that meet criteria with the potential to foster climate change refugia. Climate scientists have begun to develop various frameworks for identifying climate change refugia, which has lent important results. Some frameworks are discovered to favor different ecological and geological factors over others, while others remain unbiased. But while significant research has been poured into learning how to identify these spaces, there remains a lapse in the portion of research that actually highlights climate change refugia throughout specific regions, and assesses the capacity of refugia to be prioritized and implemented into adaptation strategy. This paper serves to apply a combination of climate change refugia identification methods to understand the presence of climate change refugia within the Cascades Ecoregion and the Pacific Northwest Region in the United States, a region often identified as a diverse and ideal location for the possibility of climate change refugia. By analyzing climate refugia supportive features and discovering the extent to which this region is vulnerable to climate change as a case study, understanding how these spaces can be reflected in broader adaptation strategies within the U.S. is possible. This research can provide relevant guidance for the future identification of climate change refugia and their adaptive capacity in other regions.