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Climate Change vs.

By: Henry H, Eli P, Ella B, Sadie S

The Alpine Tundra is an ecosystem located at 11,4000 ft elevation and higher. Some of
the ecosystems most common species of vegetation include the alpine avens, arctic willow,
kobresia, sedges, alpine sandwort, and american bistort. Common animal species in the
ecosystem include chipmunks, yellow-bellied marmots, mice, voles, shrews, pika, elk, and
mountain goat.
Pika (Ochotona

princeps) are a small mammal, with short limbs, a very rounded body,
rounded ears, and no tail. Pikas inhabit areas of broken rock and talus fields surrounded by
alpine meadows. They are most commonly found in cool, moist habitats above treeline. They
are monogamous; meaning they form mate pairs with adults from adjacent territories. When
more than one mate is available, females chose mates. Pikas are poor thermoregulators (their
bodies have trouble maintaining their core internal temperature) and do not hibernate so they
are active during the winter which mean that they have to forage during that time. They begin
foraging during the summer to collect food from the forefields. They only go 10/12 feet from their
talus field to forage resources. They then carry food back in piles to the surface of the talus
tucked under large rocks. During the winter they will sit on the piles under the rocks and eat the
food they have collected.
The biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors of the alpine tundra are what work
together to maintain the healthy, balanced state of the ecosystem. When one of the factors in
the ecosystem changes, it impacts all of the system. Abiotic factors in the alpine tundra
affecting pika are temperate, season, and snow pack. Pika live in cool and moist environments
and can easily overheat in higher temperatures. Pika live at a high elevation and have adapted
to live in the cold temperatures of their cold barren home. Other species can move to higher
elevations in the summer, but pika live so high in the mountains that when they are exposed to
high temperatures there is nowhere for them to go this is why they rely on the ground frost to
keep them cold in the summer. Winter snowpack not only insulates pikas, but also provides
water longer into the summer. Biotic factors in the alpine tundra affecting Pika are ability to
collect resources and food. Pikas are herbivores and primarily eat shrubs, twigs, sedges, moss,
and lichen that grow in their high rocky landscape. As Pikas move upslope to get away from
high temperatures during summer, the range where they collect their food moves as well. This
creates less food sources for the pikas to collect food which can in return cause the pikas to not
have enough food to provide for themselves or for their offsprings.
Keeping the population density numbers of pika healthy is important because pikas are
huge contributors to their ecosystem. Pikas are climate indicators they are used as a way to
study climate and are also ecosystem engineers. This means that their foraging helps promote
the diversity and distribution of various plant species and nutrients. Protecting pika and bringing

awareness to this issue is important to keep all their environmental attributes in tack and allow
their species to remain among our local ecosystems.
PIka V.S Frost

FIgure.1 shows the relation between how many days out of the year where all the ground frost has melted
including ground frost and the pika population.

Figure.1 shows that in years before large decreases in pika population the amount of
frost free days are much higher than normal. In the study the abnormally large amount of days
without frost in 1997 sent the pika population into a downfall. From 1997 to 2000 the pika
population decreased from 63 to 10.
In recent years many studies have been conducted on pika. Two studies were done in
the telluride area recently, the first in 2007 a irregularly hot year, and a later one done in 2011
an average year. The first study, during the hot year, showed a PPM (pika per meter) of 0.28.
The second study, during the normal year, had a PPM of 0.45. another example is from a study
done in an area on the border between Canada and Alaska called pika camp.

The pika are one of the only primary consumers that stays at this height all year, in the
U.S. This is because many other animals can not sustain themselves in the cold winters and
small growing season. The pika have adapted to this to strive in these cold harsh climates.
Luckily for the pika, the their habitat has not been affected by the deforestation or inhabiting by
people, but another man made threat is taking away their territory. As shown above increasing
heat due to climate change is affecting these small animals. When talking about the extinction of
a species there can be many unforeseen outcomes but all scientists can do is speculate.
Because pikas are the one of the only long term primary consumers in the alpine tundra a
decrease in their population, or extinction, could mean an imbalance between predator and
prey. This imbalance could cause an imbalance in predator population also. Logic and
mathematical theory suggest that when prey are numerous their predators increase in numbers,
reducing the prey population, which in turn causes predator number to decline(Global Change).
Many animals will be affected by this some of these predators possibly include, eagles, hawks,
coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and weasels. At this point there is no completely feasible way to end
climate change, but we can do more to help pikas specifically. Because of their cold and high
habitat it is hard to study these cute creatures. A way to make finding a solution easier when it
becomes a problem is preparing by collecting more information. The data shows that when the
pikas are hot they die so a solution has to keep them cool. Finding more about pikas may
present a way of doing this without stopping climate change, which is not stopping soon.