Title

The elevational limits of the American pika (Ochotona princeps) in the eastern Cascades of central Washington.

Presenter Information

Bryant Sawada

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 137B

Start Date

16-5-2013

End Date

16-5-2013

Abstract

American pikas (Ochotona princeps) are small rabbit relatives that inhabit rocky talus slopes, typically occupying higher elevations in mountainous regions. Pikas are well adapted to surviving cold climates, but this makes them vulnerable to the higher temperatures brought by global climate change. Recently documented extinctions of pika populations at lower elevations in the Great Basin suggest that pika distribution may be shifting to higher elevations. My objective was to determine the lower elevational limits of pikas along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range of central Washington. Talus sites were chosen along three transects that decreased in elevation from west to east: Manastash Road, Taneum Road, and the John Wayne Trail (from the Snoqualmie tunnel to Cle-Elum). Elevations obtained from GPS points and analyzed with ArcGIS software ranged from 591 meters to 1,217 meters. Pika presence at each site was determined by conducting formal occupancy surveys. If pikas were seen or heard, or fresh scat or food caches were found, the site was deemed occupied. The lowest elevation at which pikas occurred was 702 meters. Average elevations of occupied versus unoccupied sites, respectively, were, 1,108 vs. 890 meters for Manastash, 1,137 vs. 866 meters for Taneum, and 780 vs. 662 meters for the John Wayne Trail. This study documents the current lower limits of pikas in the eastern Cascades of central Washington, and provides baseline data against which to compare pika distribution in the future, which is predicted to shift to higher elevations as global climate change causes temperatures to rise.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Kristina Ernest

Additional Mentoring Department

Biological Sciences

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The elevational limits of the American pika (Ochotona princeps) in the eastern Cascades of central Washington.

SURC 137B

American pikas (Ochotona princeps) are small rabbit relatives that inhabit rocky talus slopes, typically occupying higher elevations in mountainous regions. Pikas are well adapted to surviving cold climates, but this makes them vulnerable to the higher temperatures brought by global climate change. Recently documented extinctions of pika populations at lower elevations in the Great Basin suggest that pika distribution may be shifting to higher elevations. My objective was to determine the lower elevational limits of pikas along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range of central Washington. Talus sites were chosen along three transects that decreased in elevation from west to east: Manastash Road, Taneum Road, and the John Wayne Trail (from the Snoqualmie tunnel to Cle-Elum). Elevations obtained from GPS points and analyzed with ArcGIS software ranged from 591 meters to 1,217 meters. Pika presence at each site was determined by conducting formal occupancy surveys. If pikas were seen or heard, or fresh scat or food caches were found, the site was deemed occupied. The lowest elevation at which pikas occurred was 702 meters. Average elevations of occupied versus unoccupied sites, respectively, were, 1,108 vs. 890 meters for Manastash, 1,137 vs. 866 meters for Taneum, and 780 vs. 662 meters for the John Wayne Trail. This study documents the current lower limits of pikas in the eastern Cascades of central Washington, and provides baseline data against which to compare pika distribution in the future, which is predicted to shift to higher elevations as global climate change causes temperatures to rise.