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  1. Sharma, Lalit Kumar (Ed.)
    Climate change in mountain regions has exposed high-elevation species to rapidly changing temperatures. Although climate exposure can be reduced in certain microclimates, the quality of microclimatic refugia might also degrade with climate change. The American pika ( Ochotona princeps ) often inhabits high elevations, and is considered climate-sensitive due to its narrow thermal tolerance and recent extirpations in some warmer portions of its range. Pikas behaviorally thermoregulate by taking refuge in the subsurface microclimates found in taluses and other rocky habitats, where daily thermal fluctuations are attenuated and somewhat decoupled from free-air temperatures. Changes in microclimate might reduce the efficacy of this behavioral thermoregulation. This study compares recent (2009–2021) subsurface temperatures at a long-term pika study site with a rare instance of historical (1963–1964) data from the same location. We also place historical and recent microclimates in context using long-term data on free-air temperatures from the same area. Recent free-air temperatures were often warmer than historical records, and subsurface temperatures exhibited even stronger warming between periods. Temperatures measured in the talus were often dramatically warmer in recent records, especially at the deeper of two subsurface sensor placements in this study. Winter months showed the greatest changes in both talus andmore »free-air temperatures. Differences between historical and recent microclimates were not explained by the precise placement of sensors, as recent temperatures were similar across a wide variety of subsurface placements, and temporal changes in free-air temperatures at the historical study site were also reflected in data from nearby weather stations. Together, these results suggest that subsurface microclimates important for pika thermoregulation have changed over the past few decades, perhaps even faster than observed changes in free-air temperatures. The generality of these results and their potential ramifications for ecosystem processes and services should be explored.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 14, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  3. Abstract Background

    Distributional responses by alpine taxa to repeated, glacial-interglacial cycles throughout the last two million years have significantly influenced the spatial genetic structure of populations. These effects have been exacerbated for the American pika (Ochotona princeps), a small alpine lagomorph constrained by thermal sensitivity and a limited dispersal capacity. As a species of conservation concern, long-term lack of gene flow has important consequences for landscape genetic structure and levels of diversity within populations. Here, we use reduced representation sequencing (ddRADseq) to provide a genome-wide perspective on patterns of genetic variation across pika populations representing distinct subspecies. To investigate how landscape and environmental features shape genetic variation, we collected genetic samples from distinct geographic regions as well as across finer spatial scales in two geographically proximate mountain ranges of eastern Nevada.


    Our genome-wide analyses corroborate range-wide, mitochondrial subspecific designations and reveal pronounced fine-scale population structure between the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldt Range of eastern Nevada. Populations in Nevada were characterized by low genetic diversity (π = 0.0006–0.0009; θW = 0.0005–0.0007) relative to populations in California (π = 0.0014–0.0019; θW = 0.0011–0.0017) and the Rocky Mountains (π = 0.0025–0.0027; θW = 0.0021–0.0024), indicating substantial genetic drift in these isolated populations. Tajima’sDwas positive for all sites (D = 0.240–0.811), consistent with recent contraction in population sizesmore »range-wide.


    Substantial influences of geography, elevation and climate variables on genetic differentiation were also detected and may interact with the regional effects of anthropogenic climate change to force the loss of unique genetic lineages through continued population extirpations in the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada.

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  5. Cooke, Steven (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Temporal variation in stress might signify changes in an animal’s internal or external environment, while spatial variation in stress might signify variation in the quality of the habitats that individual animals experience. Habitat-induced variations in stress might be easiest to detect in highly territorial animals, and especially in species that do not take advantage of common strategies for modulating habitat-induced stress, such as migration (escape in space) or hibernation (escape in time). Spatial and temporal variation in response to potential stressors has received little study in wild animals, especially at scales appropriate for relating stress to specific habitat characteristics. Here, we use the American pika (Ochotona princeps), a territorial small mammal, to investigate stress response within and among territories. For individually territorial animals such as pikas, differences in habitat quality should lead to differences in stress exhibited by territory owners. We indexed stress using stress-associated hormone metabolites in feces collected non-invasively from pika territories every 2 weeks from June to September 2018. We hypothesized that differences in territory quality would lead to spatial differences in mean stress and that seasonal variation in physiology or the physical environment would lead to synchronous variation across territories through time. We used linear mixed-effectsmore »models to explore spatiotemporal variation in stress using fixed effects of day-of-year and broad habitat characteristics (elevation, aspect, site), as well as local variation in habitat characteristics hypothesized to affect territory quality for this saxicolous species (talus depth, clast size, available forage types). We found that temporal variation within territories was greater than spatial variation among territories, suggesting that shared seasonal stressors are more influential than differences in individual habitat quality. This approach could be used in other wildlife studies to refine our understanding of habitat quality and its effect on individual stress levels as a driver of population decline.« less