Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

American pikas: Contemporary climate change alters the pace and drivers of extinction

Date:
April 21, 2011
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Local extinction rates of American pikas have increased nearly five-fold in the last 10 years, and the rate at which the climate-sensitive species is moving up mountain slopes has increased 11-fold since the 20th century, according to a new study.

American pika.
Credit: visceralimage / Fotolia

Local extinction rates of American pikas have increased nearly five-fold in the last 10 years, and the rate at which the climate-sensitive species is moving up mountain slopes has increased 11-fold since the 20th century, according to a study soon to be published in Global Change Biology.

The research strongly suggests that the American pika's distribution throughout the Great Basin is changing at an increasingly rapid rate. The pika (Ochotona princeps), a small, hamster-looking animal sensitive to climate, occurs commonly in rocky talus slopes and lava flows throughout the western U.S. The study demonstrates a dramatic shift in the range of this rabbit relative, and illustrates the increasingly important role of climate in the loss of local pika populations across the nearly 150,000 square miles of the hydrological Great Basin.

The authors investigated data across 110 years on pika distribution and 62 years of data on regional climate to first describe the patterns of local pika loss, and then examined strength of evidence for multiple competing hypotheses to explain why the losses are occurring. They found that among 25 sites in the Basin with 20th-century records of pikas, a species dependent on cool, high-mountain habitats, nearly half (four of ten) of the local pika extinctions have occurred after 1999. In addition, since 1999 the animals are moving up mountain slopes at an average (Basin-wide) rate of about 145 m (475 feet) per decade, as compared with an estimated Basin-wide average of about 13 m per decade during the 20th century.

In contrast, a recent (2003) review found that worldwide, species demonstrating distributional shifts averaged upslope movement of 6.1 m per decade. The species does not seem to be losing ground everywhere across its geographic range, but at least in the Great Basin, it may be one of a group of species that can act as 'early-warning' indicators of how distributions of species may shift in the future.

The study's most novel scientific contribution was that the factors apparently driving the local-extinction process were strongly different during the 20th Century than during 1999-2008. This may mean that knowledge of past population dynamics of a particular species may not always help researchers predict how and why distributions change in the future. That is, the rules of the 'extinction game' seem to be shifting.

This study was distinctive in that it relied upon fieldwork across an entire region rather than at just a few sites; had temperature data from the talus spaces that were previously or currently occupied by pikas (rather than simply estimated temperatures from weather recorders far from the study sites); and had three periods of data collection, which allowed for comparison of dynamics during the two intervening periods.

Unlike most other mammals that have attracted management and conservation attention in the past, pikas are not widely hunted, don't require large areas of habitat for their individual home ranges, and live in remote high-elevation areas that experience a smaller array of land uses than that experienced by other species. Additionally, with a few localized exceptions, these pika losses have occurred without significant change in the amount or geographic arrangement of their rocky talus habitat.

Habitat loss or degradation has typically been the most common cause of species decline, not only in mammals, but also among all animals. In addition to being sentinels, pikas are important because they are food for an array of animals, and as the 'ecosystem engineers' that they are, their presence affects the local plant composition and nutrient distributions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Erik A. Beever, Chris Ray, Jenifer L. Wilkening, Peter F. Brussard, Philip W. Mote. Contemporary climate change alters the pace and drivers of extinction. Global Change Biology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02389.x

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "American pikas: Contemporary climate change alters the pace and drivers of extinction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420081826.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2011, April 21). American pikas: Contemporary climate change alters the pace and drivers of extinction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420081826.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "American pikas: Contemporary climate change alters the pace and drivers of extinction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420081826.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The New York Times has officially endorsed the legalization of marijuana, but why now, and to what end? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins