Journal Article The Distribution of Cool Spots as Microrefugia in a Mountainous Area

Shimokawabe, Ayuma  ,  Yamaura, Yuichi  ,  Akasaka, Takumi  ,  Sato, Tomonori  ,  Shida, Yuichiro  ,  Yamanaka, Satoshi  ,  Nakamura, Futoshi

10 ( 8 )  , p.e0135732 , 2015-08-19 , PLOS
It has recently been proposed that microrefugia played an important role in species survival during past climate change events. However, the current distributions of microrefugia remain largely unknown. Wind-hole sites are areas affected by preferential flows of cool air generated in interstitial spaces created by rock fragments or colluvia. Alpine plant species occurring in lowland wind-hole sites isolated from alpine zones may be relicts of the last glacial period. Hokkaido, northern Japan, is known to contain many wind-hole sites in which alpine plant species can occur. Here we surveyed 55 wind-hole sites in the Kitami region, eastern Hokkaido, and observed two alpine plant species (lingonberry, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, and Labrador tea, Rhododendron groenlandicum ssp. diversipilosum var. diversipilosum) in 14 wind-hole sites. Statistical modeling showed that wind-hole sites are likely to occur in areas with high maximum slope angles and volcanic rock cover, and concave surfaces. Our predictions of wind-hole site distributions suggest that such topographic conditions are common in our study area, and that many undiscovered wind-hole sites exist. Ignoring microhabitats may greatly underestimate species distributions in topographically complex regions, and dispersed cool spots may also function as stepping stones and temporal habitats for cold-adapted species. Because these localized unique habitats usually occur in economically unproductive sites, identifying and protecting potential microrefugia (cool spots) would be a robust and cost-effective mitigation of climate change impacts.

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