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Alpine biodiversity and assisted migration: the case of the American pika (Ochotona princeps), 2015


Wilkening, JL, Ray, C, Ramsay. N, Klingler, K


Biodiversity 16 (4) :224-236
DOI: 10.1080/14888386.2015.1112304
NWT Accession Number: NWT1886

Abstract

Alpine mammals are predicted to be among the species most threatened by climate change, due to the projected loss and
further fragmentation of alpine habitats. As temperature or precipitation regimes change, alpine mammals may also be
faced with insurmountable barriers to dispersal. The slow rate or inability to adjust to rapidly shifting environmental
conditions may cause isolated alpine species to become locally extirpated, resulting in reduced biodiversity. One proposed
method for mitigating the impacts of alpine species loss is assisted migration. This method, which involves translocating a
species to an area with more favourable climate and habitat characteristics, has become the subject of debate and controversy
in the conservation community. The uncertainty associated with climate change projections, coupled with the thermal
sensitivity of many alpine mammals, makes it difficult to a priori assess the efficacy of this technique as a conservation
management tool. Here we present the American pika (Ochotona princeps) as a case study. American pikas inhabit rocky
areas throughout the western US, and populations in some mountainous areas have become locally extirpated in recent
years. We review known climatic and habitat requirements for this species, and also propose protocols designed to reliably
identify favourable relocation areas. We present data related to the physiological constraints of this species and outline
specific requirements which must be addressed for translocation of viable populations, including wildlife disease and
genetic considerations. Finally, we discuss potential impacts on other alpine species and alpine communities, and overall
implications for conserving alpine biodiversity in a changing climate.

Keywords

assisted migration; climate change; alpine biodiversity; pikas; habitat requirements; conservation strategy

Associated Niwot LTER Researchers:

Related Field Location(s):

Alpine zone

Related Data by Discipline(s):

Animal ecology

Citation

Wilkening, JL, Ray, C, Ramsay. N, Klingler, K, (2015) Alpine biodiversity and assisted migration: the case of the American pika (Ochotona princeps). Biodiversity 16 (4) :224-236 , DOI: 10.1080/14888386.2015.1112304

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Instaar
NSF
CU Boulder

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #DEB-1637686. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necesarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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