Modeling behavioral thermoregulation in a climate change sentinel
When possible, many species will shift in elevation or latitude in response to rising temperatures. However, before such shifts occur, individuals will first tolerate environmental change and then modify their behavior to maintain heat balance. Behavioral thermoregulation allows animals a range of climatic tolerances and makes predicting geographic responses under future warming scenarios challenging. Because behavioral modification may reduce an individual's fecundity by, for example, limiting foraging time and thus caloric intake, we must consider the range of behavioral options available for thermoregulation to accurately predict climate change impacts on individual species. To date, few studies have identified mechanistic links between an organism's daily activities and the need to thermoregulate. We used a biophysical model, Niche Mapper, to mechanistically model microclimate conditions and thermoregulatory behavior for a temperature-sensitive mammal, the American pika (Ochotona princeps).