Study indicates that climate change could harm pikas

Sep 25, 2012

New research suggests that climate change could have a major impact on pikas, which are small mammals that live in high-elevation rock fields.

Leah Yandow, who headed the study, says they found that pikas can only live in very specific environments, which suggests that rising temperatures could harm them.

“There’s been this general idea that pikas will simply move up slope with climate change,” Yandow said.

But her research shows that the animals don’t do well at higher elevations.  Yandow says that’s important because pikas are integral to alpine ecoystems.

“They affect the plant community through their foraging pressure,” she said. “They are an important prey species for avian predators, as well as weasels. And so if something is happening to the pikas, it’s certainly going to affect the rest of the alpine community.”

Yandow says additional research needs to be done regarding the impacts of climate change on the alpine plants that pikas eat.