Climate Change Causes Pika Mammals to Disappear from American West

A recent U.S. Geological Survey study discovered that Pikas, small herbivores that live in mountain ranges in the American West, are disappearing from the areas due to climate change.

In a recent study conducted by the USGS, researchers discovered that there has been a large reduction in the population of small herbivores known as Pikas in three mountain regions (Great Basin, southern Utah and northeastern California) where the mammals reside.  After examining several variables it was determined that climate change is the cause for the population decrease. The Pikas are “indicator species” that help scientists become aware of changes in biological conditions of a certain ecosystem.

 “It is certainly clear that changes we have observed in pika distribution are primarily governed by climate, given that nearly all of our climate-related predictions have been borne out,” said Erik Beever, USGS research ecologist, and lead author of the study. “However, we are still refining our understanding of the exact combination of direct and indirect pathways by which climate is bringing about change.”

The study was conducted over a two-year period, and was a collaboration between the USGS, California Polytechnic State University, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Princeton University, Montana State University, College of the Siskiyous, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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