Spatial Organization Assessment

Habitat characteristics and spatial organization of the Altai pika population

The purpose of our work in the 1999 expedition was to describe the habitat and assess the spatial organization of the Altai pika colony. In doing so, the following tasks were set:

1. Describe the species composition of plants on the kurumnik and near it.

2. Describe and map the traces of pika life to assess the nature of the spatial distribution of animals.

Some features of the biology of the Altai pika

The Altai pika is one of 8 species of the pika family, a detachment of lagomorphs, living on the territory of the former USSR. The Altai pika differs from other pika species in its larger body size. The body weight of adult animals averages 300 g. The color of the coat of animals is brown, with small dark gray specks. The Altai pika, just like the steppe and Daurian pikas, has a well-developed sound signaling system.

It is known from literature data that Altai pikas are monogamous. The center of the couple’s site is a shelter with a nest, located among the stones, not far from the food reserves. The nesting site is of great importance in the life of pikas. It serves as a refuge for them from predators; various favorite places for rest and observation of pikas are located here. Here they hide the plants stored for the winter, thereby protecting them from plunder, getting wet, and wind exposure. Not far from the nest, pikas feed and store food. Therefore, the habitats of pikas are located in the most favorable places for them, closer to the glades, where their feeding areas could be located. The invasion of alien animals on such areas, pikas cross with demonstrative behavior, threatening postures, squeaks, and not directly aggression. But the protection of the nesting part of the site is carried out more actively. Pikas show increased aggressiveness to strangers here: they are pursued and expelled from the site, there are often real fights, especially during the breeding season.

Results of studies of the Altai pika population

Habitat Description

Kurumniki, where the studied population of the Altai pika lives, are located on the northwestern slope of the Maly Chaptygan mountain, in the black taiga zone. Honeysuckle, currant, acacia and raspberry dominated in the shrub layer of the forest surrounding the kurumniks.

The feeding areas of pikas were located not far from her lair and were small clearings. Here we found feeding tables for animals. We determined the species composition of plants growing in these feeding areas (plot no. 1 and plot no. 2). The assessment of the species abundance of plants on test plots established in the feeding areas of pikas was carried out according to the Drude eye scale. To do this, 5-6 test sites were laid at each site.

As a result of botanical research, it was found that the following plants were found in the feeding areas of pikas: in the 1st area – high larkspur, European hoof, horsetail, bracken fern, Siberian skerda, hairy spurge, small cornflower, broad-leaved sausurea, dioica nettle, hellebore Lobel , cereals. Such plants as high larkspur, cereals and European hoof predominated.

Red currants and cereals predominated in the clearing, located in the center of the kurumnik. Kurumnik stones are covered with moss and lichen. Some shrubs grew between the stones, for example, mountain ash, honeysuckle, viburnum, red currant, black oxalis, as well as herbs – bracken fern, stinging nettle, double-leaved mink.

Comparing the data of botanical studies and the results of studying the species composition of plants in forage reserves, which were obtained last year, it can be concluded that during the storage activity, the pika does not prefer plant species that dominate in the forage areas.

Spatial Organization Assessment

In order to study the spatial distribution of animals, we compiled a map of the kurumnik. Three points were chosen – A, Ab E in different parts of the kurumnik, the most convenient for measurements. From these points, the distance to the borders of the kurumnik was measured. A total of 44 measurements were made, 22 points were built. At the same time, we marked toilets and supplies on the map. Toilets are accumulations of pika excrement. Under the influence of atmospheric influences, old toilets are washed out and form streaks, and are formed on flat horizontal surfaces. When describing toilets, we recorded the number of boluses, the number of hieroglyphs and the height of the , as well as the availability of supplies. Then we mapped the traces of life. This map shows accumulations of traces of vital activity in three areas, which indicates the group nature of the distribution of pikas.

To check the correctness of our assumption, we used statistical methods of data processing and the generally accepted criterion for evaluating the spatial structure (Daggio, 1975). To do this, we divided the compiled map of the kurumnik into identical squares, corresponding to an area of 36m2. We counted the number of all traces of the vital activity of pikas in each square and estimated their intensity, expressing it in points.

The performed calculations confirm our conclusion about the group nature of the spatial distribution.

Having counted the number of squares, we found out that the area of the kurumnika is approximately 2000 square meters. The area of individual plots was approximately 180,216 and 432 square meters. The average distance between the centers of the sites was 120 m. According to the literature (Naumov R.L., 1980), the area of individual sites in the Altai pika varies from 570 to 2180 m, on average – 1560 m. Thus, the area of individual plots in the population studied by us turned out to be less than the minimum value indicated in the work of R.L. Naumov. This may be due to many factors, such as the higher density of a given population. This question remains open and may be the subject of a separate study.

It is important to note that the location of the food reserves that we discovered last year, and hence the individual plots, has not changed. This suggests that the spatial structure of the pika population remains stable for a number of years.


As a result of the research, the habitat of the Altai pika population was described and the type of its spatial organization was clarified. In the future, it is planned to continue comprehensive studies of the Altai pika population.


1. Dazho R. Fundamentals of ecology. -M., 1975, -412 p.

2. Zakharova K., Shavyrina N. Daily activity and eating habits of the Altai pika (report presented at the city scientific-practical conference of students in 1999). – Department of Ecology DDIUTim. V. Dubinina, 1999.

3. Kiseleva A. Geobotanical study of the vegetation of the southern slope of Mount Agario (report presented at the city scientific-practical conference of students in 1999). – Department of Ecology DDIUT them. V. Dubinina, 1999.

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