The American pika, a small, herbivorous, conspicuously cute mammal related to rabbits, is extra-sensitive to climatic changes. Warmer temperatures threaten pikas by shortening the period available for them to gather food, altering plant populations where they feed and reducing insulating snowpack that protects them from cold snaps. Warming can also cause pikas to overheat, a dangerous condition that may lead to their premature death.

Building on a recently completed five-year U.S. Geological Survey project that examined effects of climate shifts on the pika across the Sierra Nevada, this project focused on filling critical information gap by determining the availability of the pika’s food resources in Yosemite. In addition to helping protect the pika, results from this research help inform park-management decisions and expand scientists’ understanding of the effects of climate change on Yosemite’s alpine ecosystems.

Your support helped scientists conduct important research to better understand, and protect, a threatened species and its precious high-altitude habitat.

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park.

Sarah Stock

Wildlife Biologist

Project Notes

This project uses state-of-the-art technology to quantify the relationship between ground-based and remote sensing measures of plant production. This relationship can then be used to quantify local-scale vegetation availability in other alpine projects. Through strategic partnerships, we are providing Sierra-wide leadership in protecting the American pika and developing a greater understanding of climate change’s effects on Yosemite’s alpine resources.