Species Survival in Refugial Ecosystems

Refugia are important oases of biodiversity conservation during periods of rapid and harsh climatic change. In this project, we aim at reconstructing the vegetation, disturbance and climate dynamics of the past 30,000 years at Lago della Costa, a refugial site in the Colli Euganei, a hilly landscape in Northern Italy close to the Adriatic Sea. The Colli Euganei are characterized by special climatic conditions (warmer winters, milder summers) if compared with the surrounding Po-Plain, allowing subtropical evergreen broadleaved species to thrive in biogeographically completely isolated semi-natural stands. Here, the pollen- and macrofossil inferred vegetation reconstructions from Lago della Costa are matched with multiproxy local paleoclimatic reconstructions (e.g. chironomids, ostracodes) to infer vegetational responses to climate and species survival.

Microclimatic conditions in the Colli Euganei are measured to disclose environmental gradients that may have supported the survival of temperate species during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 23000-19000 years ago). This information (paleoclimate, microclimate) is used to drive spatially-explicit process-based vegetation models to simulate species survival during the harshest periods of the LGM as well as the expansion out of the Colli Euganei in response to postglacial climate amelioration.

View on Lago della Costa
View on the Lago della Costa, Colli Euganei (Northeastern Italy) © Petra Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder



Petra Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder, Christoph Schwörer, Willy Tinner


Paul D. Henne, Oliver Heiri