Climate Change and Biodiversity

What Can Pikas Tell Us about the Effects of Climate and Land-Use Change on Species?

Climate change and land-use change are among the greatest threats to biodiversity; their effects differ depending on the region and the time period. Species' vulnerability to environmental changes depends on many factors, such as their physiological capacity, their ability to move or disperse into new areas, and the size/range of the current area over which they are distributed. How climate and land-use changes interactively threaten species' ability to persist through time and space has not been well studied to date.

Pikas - small mountain-dwelling mammals in Asia and North America - may help us to better understand how species are being affected by climate change and land-use decisions. There are at least 30 species of pikas, including two dozen in China alone, and they vary in distribution range, population size and preferred habitat. Because of this variability, they provide a suitable study for addressing the above questions.

Using correlative models (including spatial analysis), we are investigating how climate change and land-use changes will reshape the distribution of pikas in China, and whether climatic and land-use variables are interactive synergistically or antagonistically. By collecting data on the life histories of different pika species as well as on their environments, we can develop mechanistic models to predict their vulnerability in the context of climate change and land-use change.

Researcher: Liang Ma