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American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

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American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby ERIC » Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:50 pm

American pika are thriving in the Sierra Nevada and southwestern Great Basin

http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/american ... basin.html

ALBANY, Calif., March 1, 2010 -- New research addressing climate change questions, a priority focus of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, documents that American pika in the Sierra Nevada and southwestern Great Basin are thriving and persist in a wider range of temperatures than previously discovered. Results were recently published in a paper titled "Distribution and Climatic Relationships of the American Pika (Ochotona princeps) in the Sierra Nevada and Western Great Basin, U.S.A.; Periglacial Landforms as Refugia in Warming Climates," by Constance Millar and Robert Westfall in the February 2010 issue of the journal Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research.

A small mammalian relative of rabbits and hares, the American pika inhabits rocky slopes of western North American mountains. Pikas tolerate cold climate environments through a combination of physiological and behavioral adaptations where these same adaptations may make them sensitive to even mildly warm climates.

Vulnerability of pika habitat to global warming has been an escalating concern, causing speculation that the range of suitable pika habitat will contract upward in elevation as lower elevation site temperatures increase.

Millar and Westfall developed and used a rapid assessment method to detect recent presence of American pika in 94 percent of 420 sites in the Sierra Nevada, California, southwestern Great Basin, central Great Basin and central Oregon Cascades ranges. Occurrence and [read more...]
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby hikerduane » Thu Mar 04, 2010 5:53 pm

That's good to know Eric. Thank you for digging it up.
Piece of cake.
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby ERIC » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:21 pm

I probably should have instead linked to the original source, USFS: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby gdurkee » Fri Mar 05, 2010 8:55 am

This is extremely good news and in keeping with my own observations. Connie Millar is a long time researcher and has done some great work on climate change. I haven't yet read the original paper but here's what they were basing their concerns on:

http://sierranaturenotes.com/naturenotes/Pika1.htm

The repeat of the Grinnell transects of the Sierra ca. 1915+ have also indicated small mammals, including the pika, have gone up in elevation. However when I talked to one of their researchers last year, he said they had a hole in their data for part of the elevation profile for the pika, indicating they weren't 100% sure.

http://mvz.berkeley.edu/Grinnell/

Nice to see some good ecological news for a change.

g.
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby oldranger » Fri Mar 05, 2010 12:50 pm

It is good news that the pika, one of my favorite critters, is still well distributed throughout the Sierra. But the current study does not refute the suggestion from earlier that global warming may, over the long term impact the pika. Since this was not a study that focused on known populations it does not suggest population trends. In fact somewhere in the article it referred to the study as providing "baseline" data. This is good. In my comments to SEKI about the yellow legged frog one of my requests is that they provide a description of the "baseline population." As some people have suggestion it may not make sense to introduce mylf to lake basins that never had populations. Logically that strategy would be no different than the earlier planting of trout and char in lakes and streams that were previously barren of such species.

Returning to my friend the pika, I saw them both in the Sierra and in the Eagle Cap wilderness this past summer. One particularly friendly one peeped and kept an eye on me from about 15 feet away as I had my afternoon cocktail at Upper Isberg Lake. It was great company and never insulted me once! (compare that with Markskor a couple of days later when we met up! :nod:

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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby gdurkee » Fri Mar 05, 2010 1:10 pm

I just finished reading it and, though I have to say science writing makes my head hurt, it seems a little more encouraging than that. The detailed description of microclimate within glacial boulder fields as a possible buffer to effects of temperature on their population seemed like a good thing. (And, who knew there was a warm-air updraft under there in winter!?!). It's within the range of my experience from the west slope & keeping pretty close tabs on their locations over the years. Also finding them in a wider elevation range than reported is good. Also, although Millar found them disappearing from areas, there was no obvious correlation to elevation.

I've not found their locations or elevations changing in 20 years -- anecdotal, of course, but I'm keeping actual GPS data and can compare. ArcMap 10 now has the capability to create a sliding animated visual of data based on time. I might try doing that with Sequoia's large data set and see what happens.

I am even now trying to cobble a summary together for Nature Notes as well as a link to the full paper. I also wrote Connie to see if she had a poster or something easier to digest.

g.
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby gdurkee » Fri Mar 05, 2010 6:00 pm

Read all about it:
http://sierranaturenotes.com/naturenotes/Sierra_Pika_Millar-Westfall_20100305.html

Thanks Eric! I might have missed this otherwise.

g.
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby ERIC » Sat Mar 06, 2010 5:44 pm

You are most welcome.
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby Skibum » Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:24 pm

Good to hear indeed. :thumbsup:
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby BrianF » Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:43 pm

Thanks for sharing all this great info. Pikas in particular are one of my favorite animals.
It is encouraging news that they seem to be buffered some from the warming temps in their talus slopes. The Grinnell resurvey seemed to indicate that they are retracting their lower elevation limit in some areas but that the Alpine Chipmunks were retracting it even more so. In view of the talus climate buffering it makes sense that the Alpine chipmunk would be more of an indicator species since it's habitat is more out in the open. I think a real concern is that as the climate zones move higher the lower limits of mammal and other mobile species will continue to rise but the plant species that support them will be too slow to make the transition to the very higher limits, leaving all species in an ever narrowing band. In many cases there just is not the soil for plant species to propagate in higher and there may be too little time for the soil builders to do their work. We are going to be experiencing changes that usually happen over a great span of years in potentially a few decades.
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby gdurkee » Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:24 pm

Brian:

Good analysis on all counts. The Sierra has definitely had warm and dry periods, but the rate of change could well be depressing to those of us with attachments to certain vulnerable ecosystems.

The Medieval Warm (ca. 950 to 1200??) was rapid -- Tenaya Lake was totally dry within a few decades -- but Giant Sequoias somehow eked out a living during that period.

g.
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Re: American pika thriving in the Sierra Nevada

Postby BrianF » Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:15 pm

I agree that it is depressing to think about what may become, I certainly don't dwell on it myself, just do what I can to try to help with positive change. I especially don't think about it when am I out in the mountains, then I just enjoy!
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