Microhabitats in the tropics buffer temperature in a globally coherent manner

Brett R. Scheffers, Theodore A. Evans, Stephen E. Williams, David P. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Vegetated habitats contain a variety of fine-scale features that can ameliorate temperate extremes. These buffered microhabitats may be used by species to evade extreme weather and novel climates in the future. Yet, the magnitude and extent of this buffering on a global scale remains unknown. Across all tropical continents and using 36 published studies, we assessed temperature buffering fromwithin microhabitats across various habitat strata and structures (e.g. soil, logs, epiphytes and tree holes) and compared them to non-buffered macro-scale ambient temperatures (the thermal control). Microhabitats buffered temperature by 3.9 degrees C and reduced maximum temperatures by 3.5 degrees C. Buffering was most pronounced in tropical lowlands where temperatures were most variable. With the expected increase in extreme weather events, microhabitats should provide species with a local layer of protection that is not captured by traditional climate assessments, which are typically derived from macro-scale temperatures (e.g. satellites). Our data illustrate the need for a next generation of predictive models that account for species' ability to move within microhabitats to exploit favourable buffered microclimates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20140819
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


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