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Early Warning Signs

NWT research indicates that alpine ecosystems provide important early warning signs of global climate change. Alpine plants and animals survive on the razor's edge of environmental tolerances, making them more sensitive to changes in climate than downstream ecosystems.

Signs of stress in the American pika:

Beever, E. A., C. Ray, P. W. Mote, and J. L. Wilkening. 2010. Testing alternative models of climate-mediated extirpation. Ecological Applications 20:164-178.
Beever, E. A., C. Ray, J. L. Wilkening, P. W. Mote, and P. F. Brussard. 2011. Contemporary climate change alters the pace and drivers of extinction. Global Change Biology 17(6):1-17.
Millar, C. I., and R. D. Westfall. 2010. Distribution and climatic relationships of the American pika (Ochotona princeps) in the Sierra Nevada and western Great Basin, U.S.A.; Periglacial landforms as refugia in warming climates. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 42:76-88.
Fulbright Fellow Sabuj Bhattacharyya releases an American pika sampled as part of a NWT LTER study relating stress and survival in the pika to patterns of temperature and snow cover in the pika's habitat. The pika's sensitivity to climate, and its preference for habitats containing sub-surface ice features and ample snow cover, make it a good candidate as a biological indicator of watershed health.



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