Pika Panic

February 4, 2015

rabpikaOvercast this afternoon on California’s north coast as we await a ‘significant rain event‘ later tonight or tomorrow by virtue of a large, heavy-duty storm which could drop maybe a foot of rain on us.
Batten down the hatches!

In a related climatic note, a recent study has revealed the American Pika rabbit/hare is disappearing from low-elevation sites in the northern California mountains — and apparently due to our continual warming environment.
A plea from the National Wildlife Federation: ‘Unlike other mountain species that can move to higher altitudes in warming climates, pikas live so high on the mountain that there is no where for them to go. Without our protection and help, American pikas could be the first species with the distinction of going extinct due to global warming. We can’t let this happen!

(Illustration: An ‘American pika,’ found here).

Although I’d never heard of the pika, apparently the little 7-to-8-inch rodent-like, or more-like a rabbit or hare, has had a fairly decent-sized population in the past habituating up high in mountains west of the Rockies, especially here in northern California — this ‘conspicuously cute mammal‘ is supposedly well-known to backpackers and hikers.
Now the pika might start overheating, another victim to climate change, and die out, and the situation is ominous — from Science Codex on Monday:

Researchers surveyed 67 locations with historical records of pikas and found that the animals have disappeared from ten of them (15 percent of the sites surveyed).
Pika populations were most likely to go locally extinct at sites with high summer temperatures and low habitat area, said Joseph Stewart, a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz and first author of a paper reporting the new findings, published January 29 in the Journal of Biogeography.
“This same pattern of extinctions at sites with high summer temperatures has also been observed in the Great Basin region,” Stewart said.

If only modest action is taken to reign in greenhouse gas emissions, the model predicts that pikas will disappear from about 75 percent of sites by 2070 (51 to 88 percent, depending on the global climate model used).
With aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gases, the model predicts that only about 51 percent of sites will suffer local extinction (39 to 79 percent, depending on the global climate model).
“It looks like we’re going to lose pikas from many areas where people have been used to seeing them. It’s a loss not just for the pikas but also for future generations who won’t get to have that experience,” Stewart said.
Pikas also play important ecological roles, he said.
They are prey to many species, such as owls and stoats, and they alter vegetation and soil composition through their foraging activities.
Furthermore, he said, the shrinking range of pikas is just one example of the negative effects of global warming on plant and animal species around the world.
Other high-elevation species, such as Belding’s ground squirrel and whitebark pine, are also vulnerable and could lose a much larger proportion of their range.

“Pikas are a model organism for studying climate change, and their decline at low-elevation sites suggests that the future for other species is not great either,” Stewart said.
“The problem is that the climate is changing faster than species can adapt or disperse to new sites.”
Pikas and other high-elevation species can respond to warming temperatures by moving upslope to higher elevations.
But in many locations the mountains just aren’t high enough to provide a refuge from warming temperatures for high-elevation species.
The study predicts that only the highest peaks of the southern Sierra Nevada, Mt. Shasta, and the White Mountains are likely to remain suitable for pikas through the end of the 21st century.

And the pika just one of a shitload of such species, way-unfortunately.

Totally-unrelated, yet way-so-related is note of another study just released which shows Iceland (the island country) itself is rising due to climate change — via Time), also from Monday:

Land in Iceland is rising at a pace of as much as 1.4 inches per year in certain areas as a result of climate change, according to a new study.
The melting of the country’s glaciers reduces pressure on the land below and allows the surface to rise, researchers say.

While scientists have noticed the rise in land levels in certain areas across the globe, this study is the first to demonstrate the link between climate change and rising land, the researchers say.
“Iceland is the first place we can say accelerated uplift means accelerated ice mass loss,” said study co-author Richard Bennett, a professor at the University of Arizona.

Climate change and everything…

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