ASU research reveals why 'pika' extermination in China is a bad idea


Sandra Leander

For more than 50 years, authorities in China have tried to eliminate a mouse-like creature called the “pika,” believing the animal damages grasslands.

However, researchers from Arizona State University have discovered that pikas are actually a keystone species and are extremely important to the ecological health of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. This plateau is where most of Asia’s great rivers originate.

Bec Crew, a reporter with Scientific American, writes that the Chinese government is spending millions of dollars to eradicate the animal. But ASU scientists have proven that without pika burrows, flooding increases downstream, increasing risks to humans. In addition, without the pikas and their tunnels, other animal populations decrease and are negatively affected.

The research by School of Life Sciences professor Andrew Smith and graduate research assistant Maxwell Wilson appears in the journal AMBIO.