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Of plants and pikas: evidence for a climate-mediated decline in forage and cache quality, 2015

Bhattacharyya, S., Ray, Chris

Plant Ecology & Diversity 8 (5-6) :781-794
DOI: 10.1080/17550874.2015.1121520
NWT Accession Number: NWT1895


Background: Animals that hoard food to mediate seasonal deficits in resource availability might be particularly vulnerable to climate-mediated reductions in the quality and accessibility of food during the caching season. Central-place foragers might be additionally impacted by climatic constraints on their already restricted foraging range. Aims: We sought evidence for these patterns in a study of the American pika (Ochotona princeps), a territorial, central-place forager sensitive to climate. Methods: Pika food caches and available forage were re-sampled using historical methods at two long-term study sites, to quantify changes over two decades. Taxa that changed in availability or use were analysed for primary and secondary metabolites. Results: Both sites trended towards warmer summers, and snowmelt trended earlier at the lower latitude site. Graminoid cover increased at each site, and caching trends appeared to reflect available forage rather than primary metabolites. Pikas at the lower latitude site preferred species higher in secondary metabolites, known to provide higher-nutrient winter forage. However, caching of lower-nutrient graminoids increased in proportion with graminoid availability at that site. Conclusions: If our results represent trends in climate, cache quality and available forage, we predict that pikas at the lower latitude site will soon face nutritional deficiencies.


alpine mammals, climate change, Niwot Ridge, Ochotona princeps, Rocky Mountains, secondary metabolites

Associated Niwot LTER Researchers:

Related Field Location(s):

SaddleNiwot Ridge

Related Data by Discipline(s):

Animal ecology


Bhattacharyya, S., Ray, Chris, (2015) Of plants and pikas: evidence for a climate-mediated decline in forage and cache quality. Plant Ecology & Diversity 8 (5-6) :781-794 , DOI: 10.1080/17550874.2015.1121520

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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