Conserving refugia: what are we protecting and why?

Maurizio Rossetto*, Robert Kooyman

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)
    37 Downloads (Pure)


    Refugia play an important role in contributing to the conservation of species and communities by buffering environmental conditions over time. As large natural landscapes worldwide are declining and are increasingly threatened by extreme events, critical decision-making in biological conservation depends on improved understanding of what is being protected by refugia and why. We provide three novel definitions for refugia (i.e., persistent, future, and temporary) that incorporate ecological and evolutionary dynamics into a land management decision framework and are applicable across changing temporal and spatial settings. Definitions are supported by identification, core value, and management strategy criteria to assist short- and long-term decision-making. We illustrate these concepts using the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests (WHGR) of eastern Australia, briefly exploring the spatial and temporal factors that can inform the development of conservation management strategies following the extreme fire events of 2019–2020. For the WHGR, available knowledge can be used to protect critical assets by recognizing and implementing buffer zones and corridor connections, and by undertaking emergency translocations of target species into safe areas that will act as future refugia. More broadly, we suggest that the identification and protection of ecological and evolutionary processes across varying temporal and spatial scales is central to securing improved biodiversity conservation outcomes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number67
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • biodiversity conservation
    • landscape management
    • environmental buffering
    • persistent refugia
    • future refugia
    • temporary refugia
    • Environmental buffering
    • Biodiversity conservation
    • Future refugia
    • Temporary refugia
    • Landscape management
    • Persistent refugia


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