Topographically complex landscapes exhibit large variations in climate. This climate heterogeneity has been linked to high biodiversity and may enable species persistence with a changing climate. However, it is unclear how woody vegetation composition responds to climate heterogeneity defined by multiple climate variables at topographic scales of 10–100s of metres. In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Oldfather et al. quantified both vegetation composition and climate variables at this scale in a topographically complex California woodland and found woody communities to be sensitive to climate variation. However this relationship was weak, implying that local scale ecological processes (e.g., disturbance, dispersal limitation) mediate the effect of topographically driven climate variation.