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Latest census finds more American pika populations disappear as climate warms

WASHINGTON--WWF-funded research by Dr. Erik Beever of the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that American pika populations in the Great Basin region are continuing to disappear as the Earth's climate warms.

"Population by population, we're witnessing some of the first contemporary examples of global warming apparently contributing to the local extinction of an American mammal at sites across an entire ecoregion," said Dr. Beever, an ecologist at the USGS and lead researcher.

In a follow-up field study to research published in the February 2003 Journal of Mammalogy, American pika (Ochotona princeps) populations were detected at only five out of seven re-surveyed sites that possessed pikas in Beever's research in the mid- to late-1990s. The original research documented local extinctions at seven of twenty-five sites in the Great Basin the area between the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains. The recent re-sampling brings the total number of sites at which American pika populations have suffered local extinction to nine out of twenty-five or 36 percent. Continued loss of populations raises concern, as does the fact that these results and other lines of evidence suggest that many of the losses have occurred towards the more recent end of the 14 to 91-year period since their scientific discovery.

"With clean energy solutions readily at hand, our leaders are responsible for either protecting or failing to protect our rich natural heritage from global warming," said Brooks Yeager, vice president, Global Threats, World Wildlife Fund. "Extinction of a species, even on a local scale, is a red flag that cannot be ignored--we must limit heat-trapping emissions from the burning of dirty fossil fuels for energy now."

Previous research results suggested that American pikas are particularly vulnerable to global warming because they reside in areas with cool, relatively moist climates and are unable to survive even six hours in temperature
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Contact: Kathleen Sullivan
kathleen.sullivan@wwfus.org
202-778-9576
World Wildlife Fund
16-Dec-2004


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