Comprehensive new research shows pika populations continue to thrive as the Earth modestly warms, throwing cold water on longstanding claims that climate change will soon drive pikas extinct.
Pikas are small mammals that look like hamsters but are more closely related to rabbits. They like cool temperatures and thrive in alpine environments, but are also found at lower elevations in relatively hot climates when they can find cool, craggy, rocky areas for habitation.
During the past decade, pikas have become a poster child for climate activists. Some of the media articles claiming climate change is pushing pikas to the brink of extinction include:
- A LiveScience article titled, “Adorable American Pika Is Disappearing Due to Climate Change”
- A Huffington Post article titled, “Adorable American Pika Is Fast Disappearing, And We’re Doing Nothing to Stop It”
- A Colorado High Country News article titled, “American pika disappearing from Western regions”
Writing for the liberal news site The Conversation, pika expert Andrew Smith, professor emeritus at Arizona State University, reports, “Pikas are adapting to climate change remarkably well, contrary to many predictions.”
“When fellow hikers see me observing pikas in California’s Sierra Nevada, they often tell me they have read that these animals are going extinct,” notes Smith. “I have collected a stack of press releases that say exactly that. But based on my recent research and a comprehensive review of over 100 peer-reviewed studies, I believe that this interpretation is misleading.”
Describing his own recent research, Smith writes, “I worked with state and federal officials on a 2017 study that identified 3,250 site records of pika habitat.”
He then adds, “Based on my review of dozens of studies, pika populations appear to be secure in their core range – the mountains of western North America that have large and fairly well-connected talus habitat.”
Smith summarizes, “The fact that pikas have also adapted to a number of marginal, hot environments suggests to me that they are more resilient to climate change than many past studies have concluded. Most species exhibit losses near the edges of their geographical ranges, simply because individual animals in those zones are living in conditions that are less than ideal for them. This does not mean that they are going extinct.”
Cancel another climate crisis, as well as the term “settled science.”
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