Joseph A. E. Stewart, David H. Wright, Katherine A. Heckman


Published date August 30, 2017

Apparent climate-mediated loss and fragmentation of core habitat of the American pika in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California, USA

  • Reports the extirpation of the American pika (Ochotona princeps), a temperature-sensitive small mammal, from a 165-km2 area located within its core habitat in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains
  • Finds that radiocarbon analyses of pika fecal pellets recovered within this area indicate that former patch occupancy ranges from before 1955, the beginning of the atmospheric spike in radiocarbon associated with above ground atomic bomb testing, to c. 1991
  • Finds that despite an abundance of suitable rocky habitat, climate warming appears to have precipitated their demise
  • Data reveal a 1.9°C rise in local temperature and a significant decline in snowpack over the period of record, 1910–2015
  • Produces one of the first accounts of an apparently climate-mediated, modern extirpation of a species from an interior portion of its geographic distribution, resulting in habitat fragmentation
  • Findings provide empirical support to model projections