Refuges protect plant and animal populations from disturbance. Knowledge of refuges from disturbance in mediterranean climate rivers (med-rivers) has increased the last decade. We review disturbance processes and their relationship to refuges in streams in mediterranean climate regions (med-regions). Med-river fauna show high endemicity and their populations are often exposed to disturbance; hence the critical importance of refuges during (both seasonal and supraseasonal) disturbances. Disturbance pressures are increasing in med-regions, in particular from climatic change, salinisation, sedimentation, water extraction, hydropower generation, supraseasonal drought, and wildfire. Med-rivers show annual cycles of constrained precipitation and predictable seasonal drying, causing the biota to depend on seasonal refuges, in particular, those that are spatially predictable. This creates a spatial and temporal mosaic of inundation that determines habitat extent and refuge function. Refuges of sufficient size and duration to maintain populations, such as perennially flowing reaches, sustain biodiversity and may harbour relict populations, particularly during increasing aridification, where little other suitable habitat remains in landscapes. Therefore, disturbances that threaten perennial flows potentially cascade disproportionately to reduce regional scale biodiversity in med-regions. Conservation approaches for med-river systems need to conserve both refuges and refuge connectivity, reduce the impact of anthropogenic disturbances and sustain predictable, seasonal flow patterns.
Field of Research
060204 Freshwater Ecology 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change
Socio Economic Objective
960807 Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
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