Monday, February 9, 2015

Disappearance of Pikas Due to Climate Change

If you've been hiking around California's mountains, you might have noticed these furry little, bunny-like critters scurrying around.  Joseph Stewart, a graduate student at UCSC, says populations of pikas were most likely to go locally extinct at sites with high summer temperatures and low habitat area.  About 15% of researchers surveyed 67 locations with historical records of pikas and found that the animals have disappeared from ten of them.


These little animals are well-adapted to cold temperatures and high-elevations but these adaptions make them even more vulnerable to global warming.  Pikas play a big ecological role because they are prey to many species, such as owls and stoats, and they alter vegetation and soil composition through their foraging activities. 

University News reports, "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)." 

The disappearance of pikas is just another reflection of the reality of climate change and the ecological consequences of their extinction can easily alter other species and habitats.  As Banksy, a political graffiti artist, has said in one of his Twitter posts: "It's not just one tree that falls".  Every little part of our ecosystem affects the whole environment.


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