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Microtopoclimatic effects on a climate-sensitive habitat specialist, the American pika (Ochotona princeps), 2016

Beers, AT

ProQuest, :1-60
NWT Accession Number: NWT1844


There has been increasing acknowledgement that refugia at different scales facilitate the longterm
survival of species and populations through climate oscillations. Species distributions and
persistence are already affected by current climate change, and many taxa will become more
spatially limited and less connected under further warming scenarios. Identifying likely
microrefugia will improve our predictions of how species, communities, and ecosystems are
likely to respond to climate change by providing a clearer understanding of likely demographic
processes and connectivity. In this thesis, I considered suitable microhabitat in the face of current
changing climates in the context of the persistence or development of microrefugia. The
processes that drive microhabitat use by individuals likely also scale up to impact broader scale
occupancy and connectivity patterns. Describing those fine-scale processes may therefore better
predict how species will react to environmental change. To address these issues, we studied the
ways in which fine-scale features of the terrain drive microhabitat use for the American pika
(Ochotona princeps), a small lagomorph of western North America that has been cited as a likely
climate and ecosystem change indicator species. The microtopoclimatic effect on habitat may
drive patterns at the scales of individual habitat use, territory occupancy, patch occupancy, and
regional population health. Though many studies have addressed some of the macroclimatic
drivers of occupancy, we addressed fine scale processes and variation that likely interact with
those broader factors. In the first chapter, we used radio telemetry to track pikas October-July in
the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research site (NWT LTER) in Colorado’s Roosevelt
National Forest and compared those data to records of summertime trapping success in the same
area from 2008-2015. We used logistic regressions to test how terrain drives habitat use and how
those effects vary seasonally. In the second chapter, we made predictions about suitable habitat
across NWT using probability surfaces from Chapter 1 and supervised models made using
remotely sensed data. We compared these predictions and discussed the importance of relevant
habitat parameters and data at the appropriate scale to detect processes impacting species
distribution models and larger predictions.


Pika, Habitat, Climate-sensitive

Associated Niwot LTER Researchers:

Related Field Location(s):

Alpine zone


Beers, AT, (2016) Microtopoclimatic effects on a climate-sensitive habitat specialist, the American pika (Ochotona princeps). ProQuest, :1-60

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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