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Determinants of pika population density versus occupancy in the Southern Rocky Mountains, 2014

Erb, L.P., Ray, C., Guralnick, R.

Ecological Applications 24 (3) :429-435
DOI: 10.1890/13-1072.1
NWT Accession Number: NWT1814


Species distributions are responding rapidly to global change. While correlative studies of local extinction have been vital to understanding the ecological impacts of global change, more mechanistic lines of inquiry are needed for enhanced forecasting. The current study assesses whether the predictors of local extinction also explain population density for a species apparently impacted by climate change. We tested a suite of climatic and habitat metrics as predictors of American pika (Ochotona princeps) relative population density in the Southern Rocky Mountains, USA. Population density was indexed as the density of pika latrine sites. Negative binomial regression and AICc showed that the best predictors of pika latrine density were patch area followed by two measures of vegetation quality: the diversity and relative cover of forbs. In contrast with previous studies of habitat occupancy in the Southern Rockies, climatic factors were not among the top predictors of latrine density. Populations may be buffered from decline and ultimately from extirpation at sites with high-quality vegetation. Conversely, populations at highest risk for declining density and extirpation are likely to be those in sites with poor-quality vegetation.


American pika, Climate change, Forb, Graminoids, Habitat quality, Latrines, Occupancy, Ochotona princeps, Population density, Southern Rocky Mountains, USA, Vegetation quality

Associated Niwot LTER Researchers:

Related Data by Discipline(s):

Animal ecology


Erb, L.P., Ray, C., Guralnick, R., (2014) Determinants of pika population density versus occupancy in the Southern Rocky Mountains. Ecological Applications 24 (3) :429-435 , DOI: 10.1890/13-1072.1

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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