Extinction dynamics and microrefugia of the American pika as climate changes.

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Accurate projections of climate change and associated impacts on wildlife are now essential to conservation planning, but predictive models of range shifts for many species are often coarse, ignore extinction dynamics, and overestimate suitable habitat. Recent studies suggest the American pika (Ochotona princeps) is vulnerable to increasing heat stress in the Great Basin yet appears more resilient to climate change in other regions. Surprisingly, pikas have persisted outside of their bioclimatic envelope in some regions where temperatures commonly exceed their physiological tolerance level.

American pika.

Accurate projections of climate change and associated impacts on wildlife are now essential to conservation planning, but predictive models of range shifts for many species are often coarse, ignore extinction dynamics, and overestimate suitable habitat. Recent studies suggest the American pika (Ochotona princeps) is vulnerable to increasing heat stress in the Great Basin yet appears more resilient to climate change in other regions. Surprisingly, pikas have persisted outside of their bioclimatic envelope in some regions where temperatures commonly exceed their physiological tolerance level. These findings suggest extinction mechanisms vary regionally and that pikas have adapted to local climate or use microrefugia within talus to avoid extreme temperatures. The objectives of this study are to 1) develop high-resolution maps of talus through fusion of LiDAR and aerial imagery, 2) develop predictors for untested hypotheses about microtopography, snowpack, and phenology as extinction mediators, 3) evaluate regional variation in extinction mechanisms by incorporating new data on pika extirpations outside of the Great Basin, and 4) evaluate contributions of microhabitat variables to habitat and connectivity maps for pikas. Results of this study will increase understanding of pika responses to climate change, inform conservation strategies, and provide map products widely applicable to many research areas including wildlife ecology, plant ecology, geomorphology, hazard assessment, and hydrology.