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Climate Change Refuge in the Sierra

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Climate Change Refuge in the Sierra
October 02, 2019 04:48PM
Where Animals and Plants Might Survive Climate Change
• 10/1/2019

Scientists are searching for pockets of ecological resistance in the face of climate change, places that seem to be warming less quickly than others due to unique natural conditions.

The hope is that as the earth continues to get hotter, these “climate refugia” could serve as strongholds for plants and animals.

For a decade, scientists have been studying this phenomenon in a steep mountain valley in the Sierra Nevada. Devils Postpile National Monument is known for its distinct geologic formations, where the crumbling columns of rock from an ancient lava bed resemble, well, a pile of posts.

But when Deanna Dulen began working there almost 20 years ago, she noticed something else.

“It was even colder than I ever anticipated,” said Dulen, who is now superintendent of the monument. The chill was especially noticeable on the floor of the valley, which was colder than the peaks thousands of feet above it.

“That’s the opposite of what you’d expect,” she said. “Usually you expect as you go up in elevation, it will be getting colder.”

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