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Ecology. 2011 Sep;92(9):1730-5.

On the generality of a climate-mediated shift in the distribution of the American pika (Ochotona princeps).

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


Alpine species are among those most threatened by climatic shifts due to their physiological and geographic constraints. The American pika (Ochotona princeps), a small mammal found in mountainous, rocky habitats throughout much of western North America, has experienced recent population extirpations in the Great Basin linked to climatic drivers. It remains unclear whether these patterns of climate-related loss extend to other portions of the species' range. We investigated the distribution of the American pika and the climatic processes shaping this distribution within the Southern Rocky Mountain region. Results from a survey of 69 sites historically occupied by pikas indicate that only four populations have been extirpated within this region over the past few decades. Despite relatively few extirpations, low annual precipitation is implicated as a limiting factor for pika persistence in the Southern Rockies. Extirpations occurred only at sites that were consistently dry over the last century. While there was no climate change signal in our results, these data provide valuable insight into the potential future effects of climate change on O. princeps throughout its range.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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