The animals climbing mountains to escape climate change


A pika in Glacier National Park, Montana (Photo: NPS)

That cute little animal above, the pika, is being run out of its home … by heat.

In a talk at TEDxMidAtlantic, Director of the U.S. National Park Service Jon Jarvis explores how climate change is affecting the flora and fauna of America’s parks. The pika, for example, a small mammal who is a beloved inhabitant of several of America’s national parks, is moving its home to higher and higher elevations to avoid rising temperatures, Jarvis says. This relative of the rabbit is highly-sensitive to heat — “they can die when exposed to temperatures as mild as 78 degrees Fahrenheit,” the National Wildlife Foundation reports — and so rising temperatures drastically affect their lives.

Jarvis explains how a group of researchers took on an extended survey of the lives of small mammals in Yosemite National Park, repeating early-20th-century research done by famed naturalist Joseph Grinnell. Named The Grinnell Resurvey Project, the team, in a report published in Science in 2008, found that the pika was no longer living at certain low-level elevations, contracting its range of habitation by 153 meters.

“The problem is,” Jarvis says, “if you move up too far, you get to the top and you have no place to go but extinction.”

To learn more about the effect climate change is having on America’s parks, watch Jarvis’s whole talk below:

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