On the grasslands of the Tibetan plateau, one sometimes hears a strange chattering – an excited buzz that seems to emanate from the earth itself. Anyone who stops to look for the source will quickly realize that the ground is marked by a series of holes, from which small, shy creatures are likely to be watching. These shy creatures are the tiny rodent-like mammals called pikas. However, these animals aren’t as cute as they seem. Pikas are often accused of degrading meadows and grasslands and deteriorating the quality of trees and crops. Although important to the ecosystem, these mammals often feed on orchards and trees, thereby causing damage to the beautiful abundant grasslands.
Pikas have a special affinity towards grasses, weeds and tall wildflowers that grow in their rocky, high mountain habitat. In the recent years, due to overgrazing and the global climate change, the alpine Tibetan meadow has degraded seriously. The degraded meadow provides the plateau pika with a better habitat and results in the overabundance of plateau pika. Now, plateau pika is regarded as a pest because of its competition with livestock for herbage and its burrowing activity which leads to soil erosion and vegetation disturbances. During the winter months (December through March) in Baluchistan, Pakistan, when native vegetation is lacking, foraging pikas often feed on apple tree trunks and branches. Their gnawing produces at times complete debarking around the tree trunk and even up to 25 to 40 cm above ground level.
Higher level damage results when the animals travel over snow tofeed. This damage often kills trees or, in the case of incomplete girdling, reduced production. It is estimated that damage losses per year caused by pikas in the apple orchards of Ziarat valley run into hundreds of thousands of dollars! In 1974, in one orchard, 89.9% of 3 to 4 year old trees suffered severe overwinter due to pikas debarking the trunks and branches. This forced the farmer to replant his orchard with new saplings. Moreover, subsistence crops growing between the apple trees like wheat, barley, fodder, maize and potatoes are fed upon by the pikas.
The article given below would better explain the situation.
Voracious Tibetan pikas fingered for grassland loss
11 October 2011
These cute critters are accused of having a destructive appetite. The pikas burrow through the meadows of the Tibetan plateau, feasting on grass and storing hay for the long winter. China is exterminating the creatures by throwing botulism-laced grain into pikas’ burrows in an effort to preserve what’s left of deteriorating grasslands for sheep and yaks, according to a BBC Radia report.
But Andrew Smith of Arizona State University contends that pikas may not be the cause after all. Overgrazing may be destroying the meadows, leaving behind short grasslands that provide pikas with a better view of potential predators. He worries that aggressive control programmes will throw the delicate ecosystem off balance, endangering birds that nest in pika burrows and brown bears that depend on the creatures as a primary food source.
Researchers at Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology in China defend the approach, claiming pikas consume 4.4 billion kilograms of grass each year – the forage needed for 4.8 million sheep. They claim their programme is simply seeking to control pika numbers so that overgrazed areas can be rehabilitated.
The primary cause of concern regarding pikas is that they aren’t always bad for the ecosystem. On treating grasslands with poison against these creatures, it was noticed that in areas where they had poisoned the pikas most of the native species of mammals and even ecosystem functions in the Tibetan plateau had disappeared or been greatly diminished. Also, by digging holes in the ground, pikas allow rainwater to percolate into the earth and replenish the water table. Without the humble pika, the water simply runs along the surface, triggering floods and soil erosion. Thus we require a solution which would effectively protect our apple orchards and crops while at the same time not harm the animal in any way.
That is precisely what C Tech Corporation provides! The non-toxic, non-hazardous product, Combirepel™, offered by C Tech Corporation help us keep rodents at bay without causing any harm to the rodent or any other species that consumes or comes in contact with it. It is an eco-friendly product that can be safely incorporated in polymers or coated on surfaces to repel rodents and other animals without killing them. Combirepel™ is available in masterbatch and lacquer form, or as a liquid solution. For protection against pikas, this product could be coated on tree trunks or added in mulches. This would provide suitable protection again pikas, without harming them in any way!