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This presentation will use mountain wildlife to illustrate several phenomena related to contemporary climate change: a) investigation of body-condition and reproductive-fitness responses to possible phenological mismatches across elevational gradients, involving timing of sagebrush-obligate migratory birds, their insect prey, and plant flowering; b) examples of behavioral plasticity ‘softening’ distributional constraints, illustrating one form of adaptation; and c) context-dependent trends and distributional constraints in a broadly distributed species. In the latter case, research on American pikas across 18 years of contemporary data and historical records from 1898-1956 suggest that pace of local extinctions and rate of upslope retraction have been markedly more rapid in the last decade than during the 20th century, and that dynamics governing the extinction process differed greatly between the two periods. This may mean that understanding even recent dynamics of species losses may not always help us predict the patterns of future loss. Given the prevalence and importance of clinal variability and ecotypic variation, phenotypic and behavioral plasticity, and variation in climatic conditions, greatest progress in understanding phenomena such as distributional determinants, the local-extinction process, and factors acting as drivers of density and population dynamics will occur with coordinated, landscape-scale research and monitoring.
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