Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Oases of the future? Evaluating springs as potential hydrologic refugia in drying climates

June 1, 2020

Springs in water-limited landscapes are biodiversity hotspots and keystone ecosystems, disproportionately influencing surrounding landscapes despite their often small areas. Some springs served as evolutionary refugia during previous climate drying, supporting relict species in isolated habitats. Understanding whether springs will provide hydrologic refugia from future climate change is important to biodiversity conservation but complicated by hydrologic variability among springs, data limitations, and multiple non-climate threats to groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Here, we present a conceptual framework for categorizing springs as potentially stable, relative, or transient hydrologic refugia in a drying climate. Clues about refugial capacity of springs can be assembled from diverse approaches, including citizen-science-powered ecohydrologic monitoring, remote sensing, landowner interviews, and environmental tracer analysis. Managers can integrate multiple lines of evidence to predict which springs may become future refugia for species of concern, strengthening the long-term effectiveness of springs conservation and restoration and informing climate adaptation for terrestrial and freshwater species.

Publication Year 2020
Title Oases of the future? Evaluating springs as potential hydrologic refugia in drying climates
DOI 10.1002/fee.2191
Authors Jennifer M. Cartwright, Kathleen A. Dwire, Zach Freed, Samantha J. Hammer, Blair McLaughlin, Louise W. Misztal, Edward J. Schenk, John R. Spencer, Abraham E. Springer, Lawrence E. Stevens
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Index ID 70210872
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center