Identifying Climate Change Refugia in Alberta's Boreal Forest


Online AB

Event Date and Time
March 8th, 2023 at 12:00pm MST to March 8th, 2023 at 1:00pm MST

Free Virtual Event: wednesday March 8



Climate refugia are areas where the impacts of climate change may be slower to materialize, providing either permanent or temporary areas of existing habitat that are more likely to persist than elsewhere. These refugia may act as ‘slow lanes’ for species to bide time and eventually migrate to more climatically suitable habitats. As western North American forests become hotter and drier with climate change, drought will likely be a leading cause of tree mortality and regeneration failure in Alberta’s boreal forest. However, there may be areas of the forest that are less impacted by drought, possibly due to topography, substrate type, and the presence of peatlands that indicate robust groundwater connectivity and may provide water to trees during periods of drought. Two ongoing studies at the University of Alberta are investigating how these factors may increase adjacent upland forests’ resistance and resilience to future drought by assessing tree regeneration post-fire and tree growth (via tree cores). By improving our understanding of the landscape characteristics that promote refugia, these studies can help inform forest management and conservation priorities in a changing climate.


Michelle Knaggs is a PhD student at the University of Alberta. Her thesis uses tree rings and remote sensing to identify landscape characteristics that buffer tree growth responses to drought and recovery from wildfire.. Her MSc research was focused on boreal songbird community responses to wildfire.


Alex Lanti-Traikovski is a MSc student at the University of Alberta and climate change technician with the Canadian Forest Service. His thesis work investigates topo-edaphic and climate factors that promote post-fire recovery in peatland-dominated landscapes.

For Questions Contact: Emily Kyle,

Thank you to our sponsors of Partners in Boreal Education.