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A surprising discovery of American pika sites in the northwest Great BasinAuthor(s): Mackenzie R. Jeffress; K. Jane Van Gunst; Constance I. Millar
Source: Western North American Naturalist. 77
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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DescriptionAlthough the American pika (Ochotona princeps) continues to receive attention due to documented declines and range retractions, particularly in the Great Basin, thorough range inventories have yet to be completed in many parts of the region. Here we report on recently discovered populations in northwestern Nevada in areas not suspected to support pika activity under current climate regimes. We describe 238 new locations (“sites”) with evidence of past or current occupancy by pikas that cluster into 31 locales, which we interpret as metapopulations or “demes”, in 15 distinct mountain ranges or geographic areas. We documented twice as many relict sites (sites with evidence of former pika occupancy) as currently occupied sites; supporting previous observations of local range retraction and site losses within the pika’s range. In looking at the overall site data, median elevation and water year precipitation were higher and minimum and maximum July temperatures were lower for occupied sites respective to relict sites. This pattern was repeated in most, but not all, of the seven mountain ranges where both occupied and relict sites were found. Occupied sites were more likely to be found between a lower and upper limit of water year precipitation, in cooler climates, and on more mesic-facing aspects, but many of these environmental descriptors also describe relict sites. The apparent extirpation of pikas from the range with the highest elevation and lowest temperatures (Black Rock Range) and continued persistence in some of the lowest and hottest areas of our survey (Home Camp Range) is particularly noteworthy. Since pikas were known from only a handful of early 20th century records in the area, these surveys greatly expand our understanding of both current and historic pika distribution in the northwestern Great Basin and shed light on patterns of pika persistence and extirpation in a region typified by harsher climates respective to other areas with extant pika populations. Furthermore, our results emphasize the importance of conducting spatially extensive fieldwork to better understand site extirpations and species range retractions.
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CitationJeffress, Mackenzie R.; Van Gunst, K. Jane; Millar, Constance I. 2017. A surprising discovery of American pika sites in the northwest Great Basin. Western North American Naturalist. 77.
KeywordsAmerican pika, climate change, extirpation, Great Basin, Ochotona princeps, Nevada, occupancy
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