Pikas to Help Lassen Park Track Global Warming

The American pika is a small member of the rabbit family.

Lassen Volcanic National Park will participate in a multiple park project designed to survey rocky areas for pika, use DNA to quantify gene flow between areas where pika are present, and conduct a quantitative vulnerability assessment that explicitly predicts pika response to climate change.

The American pika is a small member of the Lagamorph (rabbit) family that lives in the upper elevation rocky slopes of Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Pikas cannot regulate their body temperature due to their thick fur coats and have a lethal limit of around 80 degrees F.  Therefore they seek the coolness that is found in the crevices of rocky slopes.  They do not hibernate and store forbes and grasses in “haypiles” to feed on throughout the winter.  Due to its low heat tolerance, this species is susceptible to the effects of global climate change.

Lassen Volcanic and Crater Lake National Parks were used to test a protocol for surveying pika in the summer of 2010.  Survey techniques included searching for “haypiles” and scat as well as listening for pika alarm calls and looking for the animals scurrying around rocky areas.

DNA will be used to determine estimates of dispersal rates among populations within the park.  DNA is derived from collecting pika feces and extracting mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. DNA will used to understand how distance and intervening habitat affect gene flow and successful dispersal, and develop an empirically-based method to assess isolation of existing pika populations on NPS lands.

A vulnerability assessment of pika will be completed based on information gained through Objectives 1 and 2, supplemented by the literature and citizen-scientist data. Researchers will use the data in conjunction with downscaled global climate change models to assess the vulnerability of pika populations to a range of future climate scenarios.

Data analysis from the project will continue fall and winter 2010.  New survey sites will be monitored in 2011, with a final research project report due in 2012.  Further details and results from the effort will be available on the Pikas in Peril websites: http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/ucbn/monitor/pika/pika_peril/index.cfm and http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/ucbn/monitor/pika/pika.cfm

For additional information on the Pikas in Peril Project at Lassen Volcanic National Park, contact Wildlife Biologist Mike Magnuson at (530) 595-4444 x 5174.  For general park information, visit the website www.nps.gov/lavo or call the Kohm yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at (530) 595-4480.

-from press release

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Press Release

-from press release