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Title: Cold‐air pools as microrefugia for ecosystem functions in the face of climate change

Cold‐air pooling is a global phenomenon that frequently sustains low temperatures in sheltered, low‐lying depressions and valleys and drives other key environmental conditions, such as soil temperature, soil moisture, vapor pressure deficit, frost frequency, and winter dynamics. Local climate patterns in areas prone to cold‐air pooling are partly decoupled from regional climates and thus may be buffered from macroscale climate change. There is compelling evidence from studies across the globe that cold‐air pooling impacts plant communities and species distributions, making these decoupled microclimate areas potentially important microrefugia for species under climate warming. Despite interest in the potential for cold‐air pools to enable species persistence under warming, studies investigating the effects of cold‐air pooling on ecosystem processes are scarce. Because local temperatures and vegetation composition are critical drivers of ecosystem processes like carbon cycling and storage, cold‐air pooling may also act to preserve ecosystem functions. We review research exploring the ecological impacts of cold‐air pooling with a focus on vegetation, and then present a new conceptual framework in which cold‐air pooling creates feedbacks between species and ecosystem properties that generate unique hotspots for carbon accrual in some systems relative to areas more vulnerable to regional climate change impacts. Finally, we describe key steps to motivate future research investigating the potential for cold‐air pools to serve as microrefugia for ecosystem functions under climate change.

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Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
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National Science Foundation
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