Climate relicts and their associated communities as natural ecology and evolution laboratories

Scott A. Woolbright, Thomas G. Whitham, Catherine A. Gehring, Gerard J. Allan, Joseph K. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Climate relicts, marginal populations that have become isolated via climate-driven range shifts, preserve ecological and evolutionary histories that can span millennia. Studies point to climate relicts as 'natural laboratories' for investigating how long-term environmental change impacts species and populations. However, we propose that such research should be expanded to reveal how climate change affects 'interacting' species in ways that reshape community composition and evolution. Biotic interactions and their community and ecosystem effects are often genetically based and driven by associations with foundation species. We discuss evolution in climate relicts within the context of the emerging fields of community and ecosystem genetics, exploring the idea that foundation relicts are also natural community and ecosystem laboratories and windows to future landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-416
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Climate relict
  • Community and ecosystem genetics
  • Community ecology and evolution
  • Foundation species
  • Natural laboratories
  • Species interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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