Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1303–1330 | Cite as

Persistence through tough times: fixed and shifting refuges in threatened species conservation

  • April E. ResideEmail author
  • Natalie J. Briscoe
  • Chris R. Dickman
  • Aaron C. Greenville
  • Bronwyn A. Hradsky
  • Salit Kark
  • Michael R. Kearney
  • Alex S. Kutt
  • Dale G. Nimmo
  • Chris R. Pavey
  • John L. Read
  • Euan G. Ritchie
  • David Roshier
  • Anja Skroblin
  • Zoe Stone
  • Matt West
  • Diana O. Fisher
Review Paper


It may be possible to avert threatened species declines by protecting refuges that promote species persistence during times of stress. To do this, we need to know where refuges are located, and when and which management actions are required to preserve, enhance or replicate them. Here we use a niche-based perspective to characterise refuges that are either fixed or shifting in location over ecological time scales (hours to centuries). We synthesise current knowledge of the role of fixed and shifting refuges, using threatened species examples where possible, and examine their relationships with stressors including drought, fire, introduced species, disease, and their interactions. Refuges often provide greater cover, water, food availability or protection from predators than other areas within the same landscapes. In many cases, landscape features provide refuge, but refuges can also arise through dynamic and shifting species interactions (e.g., mesopredator suppression). Elucidating the mechanisms by which species benefit from refuges can help guide the creation of new or artificial refuges. Importantly, we also need to recognise when refuges alone are insufficient to halt the decline of species, and where more intensive conservation intervention may be required. We argue that understanding the role of ecological refuges is an important part of strategies to stem further global biodiversity loss.


Endangered species Biodiversity conservation Fire Niche Predators Press, pulse and ramp stressors 



This project was supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme through the Threatened Species Recovery Hub. B Hradsky was also supported by the Victorian Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and Parks Victoria, and C Dickman by the Australian Research Council (DP140104621). Jack Tatler, John Wright and Peter McDonald contributed to the initial discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Green Fire Science, The University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of BioSciencesThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.The Biodiversity Research Group, The School of Biological Sciences, ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental DecisionsThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  6. 6.Bush Heritage AustraliaMelbourneAustralia
  7. 7.Institute for Land, Water and SocietyCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  8. 8.CSIRO Land and WaterWinnellieAustralia
  9. 9.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  10. 10.Centre for Integrative Ecology and School of Life and Environmental SciencesDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  11. 11.Australian Wildlife ConservancyAdelaideAustralia
  12. 12.Centre for Ecosystem ScienceUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  13. 13.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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