Apparent climate-mediated loss and fragmentation of core habitat of the American pika in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California, USA

Joseph A. E. Stewart, David H. Wright, Katherine A. Heckman, PLOS One
August 30, 2017

Joseph A. E. Stewart, David H. Wright, Katherine A. Heckman
Published: August 30, 2017

Contemporary climate change has been widely documented as the apparent cause of range contraction at the edge of many species distributions but documentation of climate change as a cause of extirpation and fragmentation of the interior of a species’ core habitat has been lacking. Here, we report the extirpation of the American pika (Ochotona princeps), a temperature-sensitive small mammal, from a 165-km2 area located within its core habitat in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. While sites surrounding the area still maintain pikas, radiocarbon analyses of pika fecal pellets recovered within this area indicate that former patch occupancy ranges from before 1955, the beginning of the atmospheric spike in radiocarbon associated with above ground atomic bomb testing, to c. 1991. Despite an abundance of suitable rocky habitat climate warming appears to have precipitated their demise…

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