Moisture, thermal inertia, and the spatial distributions of near-surface soil and air temperatures: Understanding factors that promote microrefugia

Elsevier Inc
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Journal Article
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 2013, 176 pp. 77 - 89
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Climate change poses significant threats to biodiversity, but some species may be able to escape its effects in small locations with unusual and stable climates (microrefugia). However, there are still great uncertainties about where microrefugia are located, and the exact role that moisture plays in buffering extreme temperatures. In this study we quantified the effects of moisture on the distribution and variability of near-surface soil and air temperatures. We collected hourly 1 cm soil and 5 cm air temperatures and humidities at 111 sites from May 2011 to March 2012. Sites were diverse in terms of elevation (21428 m), distance from coast (180 m403 km), canopy cover (0100%), topographic exposure, and susceptibility to cold air drainage. We found that variability (diurnal range) of both soil and air temperatures decreased under moister conditions. While air temperatures were related more strongly to humidity, soil temperatures were related more to vapour pressure deficit (VPD). That is, both high temperature and low humidity were required before the VPD was sufficient to dry out the soil and allow soil temperatures to vary.
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