Pika Past-the-Time

August 26, 2016

il_fullxfull.711383701_5yfqMisty-thick fog again this Friday morning on California’s north coast, and if like yesterday, the marine layer will never really vanish completely — heavy, gray blanket muffled our area before sundown last evening, most-likely the same today.
Some moments yesterday afternoon, though, of bright sunshine and near-clear skies.

Diminishing weather returns…

Another noted diminishing concern, the rabbit-relative American Pika.

(Illustration: Pika (Ochotona princeps), ink drawing by Jean Polfus, found here).

Small, round, and rodent-like, the Pika used to be found all over the mountainous areas of the Western US, including the alpine terrain of northeastern California. Pikas are known for being way-active during the day, and vocal even.
As says Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona: ‘“It’s gotta be one of the cutest animals in North America. It’s like a cross between a bunny rabbit and prairie dog.”

They’re also caught in the jaws of climate change — decline of the Pika continues (I posted about the diminishing Pika last summer), and according to a new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey, more than a third of its north California sites have disappeared.
Researchers also found widespread reduction along with those up here, but in the Great Basin and southern Utah.
In an overall view, the Pika is considered an “indicator species,” which reveals the biological condition of a particular 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.”

He added, straight-forward: ‘“The longer we go along, the evidence continues to suggest that climate is the single strongest factor.”

Some details via Phys.org this morning:

President Barack Obama mentioned the plight of the pika this summer when he spoke at Yosemite National Park about the damage climate change is inflicting on the nation’s national parks.
He said the pika was being forced further upslope at Yosemite to escape the heat.
The study didn’t quantify how many total American pika still exist, but honed in on several areas where the small animal has historically roamed eating grass, weeds and wildflowers.
The animal is thriving in a few places, such as the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, but overall is suffering, Beever said.
At Utah’s Zion National Park, they’re gone all together despite being seen as recently as 2011.
In nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument, they’re no longer in three-fourths of their historical habitat, Beever said.
Pikas were only found in 11 of 29 sites where they once lived in northeastern California.
In the Great Basin, which stretches from Utah’s Wasatch Mountains in the east to the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains in the west, the population is down about 44 percent compared to historical records.
“It’s not that they’ve just moved, they are gone all together,” Beever said.

A law/whatever of diminishing returns…

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