Refugia are island-like habitats that are linked to long-term environmental stability and, as a result, high endemism. Conservation of refugia and endemism hotspots should be based on a deep ecological and evolutionary understanding of their functioning, which remains limited. Although functional traits can provide such insights, a corresponding, coherent framework is lacking.
Keppel et al. suggest that the eco-evolutionary conditions related to this persistent stability produce a unique suite of functional characteristics that provide important insights about the ecological and evolutionary processes underpinning the development of endemism hotspots and refugia. The authors argue that a systematic comparison of this functional signature among endemism hotspots and refugia, and between these entities and the surrounding landscape, is needed to enhance our understanding of the eco-evolutionary functioning of these priority habitats. Such insights are also vital for more effective conservation.