Pika (Ochotona princeps) losses from two isolated regions reflect temperature and water balance, but reflect habitat area in a mainland region


Erik A. Beever, John D. Perrine, Tom Rickman, Mary Flores, John P. Clark, Cassie Waters, Shana S. Weber, Braden Yardley, David Thoma, Tara Chesley-Preston, Kenneth E. Goehring, Michael Magnuson, Nancy Nordensten, Melissa Nelson, Gail H. Collins


Journal of Mammalogy


Although biotic responses to contemporary climate change are spatially pervasive and often reflect synergies between climate and other ecological disturbances, the relative importance of climatic factors versus habitat extent for species persistence remains poorly understood. To address this shortcoming, we performed surveys for American pikas (Ochotona princeps) at > 910 locations in 3 geographic regions of western North America during 2014 and 2015, complementing earlier modern (1994-2013) and historical (1898-1990) surveys. We sought to compare extirpation rates and the relative importance of climatic factors versus habitat area for pikas in a mainland-versus-islands framework. In each region, we found widespread evidence of distributional loss-local extirpations, upslope retractions, and encounter of only old sign. Locally comprehensive surveys suggest extirpation of O. princeps from 5 of 9 new sites from the hydrographic Great Basin and from 11 of 29 sites in northeastern California. Although American pikas were recorded as recently as 2011 in Zion National Park and in 2012 from Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah, O. princeps now appears extirpated from all reported localities in both park units. Multiple logistic regressions for each region suggested that both temperature-related and water-balance-related variables estimated from DAYMET strongly explained pika persistence at sites in the Great Basin and in Utah but not in the Sierra-Cascade "mainland" portion of northeastern California. Conversely, talus-habitat area did not predict American pika persistence in the Great Basin or Utah but strongly predicted persistence in the Sierra-Cascade mainland. These results not only add new areas to our understanding of long-term trend of the American pika's distribution, but also can inform decisions regarding allocation of conservation effort and management actions. Burgeoning research on species such as O. princeps has collectively demonstrated the heterogeneity and nuance with which climate can act on the distribution of mountain-dwelling mammals.



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