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Fire refugia: What are they, and why do they matter for global change?

Author(s): Arjan J. H. Meddens, Crystal A. Kolden, James A. Lutz, Alistair M. S. Smith, C. Alina Cansler, John T. Abatzoglou, Garrett W. Meigs, William M. Downing, Meg A. Krawchuk
Year Published: 2018

Fire refugia are landscape elements that remain unburned or minimally affected by fire, thereby supporting postfire ecosystem function, biodiversity, and resilience to disturbances. Although fire refugia have been studied across continents, scales, and affected taxa, they have not been characterized systematically over space and time, which is crucial for understanding their role in facilitating resilience in the context of global change. We identify four dichotomies that delineate an overarching conceptual framework of fire refugia: unburned versus lower severity, species-specific versus landscape-process characteristics, predictable versus stochastic, and ephemeral versus persistent. We outline the principal concepts underlying the ecological function of fire refugia and describe both the role of fire refugia and uncertainties regarding their persistence under global change. An improved understanding of fire refugia is crucial to conservation given the role that humans play in shaping disturbance regimes across landscapes.

Citation: Arjan J H Meddens, Crystal A Kolden, James A Lutz, Alistair M S Smith, C Alina Cansler, John T Abatzoglou, Garrett W Meigs, William M Downing, Meg A Krawchuk; Fire Refugia: What Are They, and Why Do They Matter for Global Change?, BioScience, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy103
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Fire Regime, Fire and Landscape Mosaics, Fire & Climate, Recovery after fire
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 18303
Record updated: Nov 6, 2018