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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

Relief from summer warming: Devils Postpile National Monument’s cold air pool supports a refugium-based conservation strategy


Cold air pooling (CAP) occurs in low-lying areas where cold, dense air collects during nighttime hours, producing colder temperatures than surrounding higher elevations. Devils Postpile National Monument (DEPO) is confined by steep mountain ridges, which promote cold air drainage into lower-elevation meadows and river valleys. These low lying areas where CAP occurs could help facilitate a potential refugium from some of the greatest impacts of regional climate warming. A strong focus on CAP occurrence is part of a seven-step climate change refugia conservation cycle, outlined in Morelli et al. (2016), that DEPO has instituted, wherein resource management seeks to identify and focus on parts of the landscape that may be sheltered from the intensity and pace of rapid climate change. Locales that harbor persistent CAP may provide vulnerable species and ecosystems a sort of refuge, allowing more time to adapt to new conditions. Central to DEPO’s strategy is better monitoring and understanding of CAP occurrence. Based on observations from 10 years of temperature loggers in and around DEPO, CAP operates reliably throughout the year, and especially during summer. Importantly, CAP has occurred strongly during recent unusually warm years. These findings reinforce the value of monitoring and ongoing analysis as a way to guide conservation and adaptation using potential climate change refugia. As with this co-developed park–university investigation, other land managers could consider climate refugia-oriented management as a viable conservation and adaptation strategy.

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