Analysis of the use of Bromeliads by the Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) in paramo ecosystems in Southern Ecuador
The data collection and research were done at Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, Ecuador in the period from 24.05.2017 till 20.08.2017.
Andean or Spectacled bear is the only species of the ursidae family still present in South America. This bear is endemic to the area of Tropical Andes Spectacled bear is found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia and in these five countries its range covers approximately 26 000 km2.The species is listed as vulnerable according to IUCN. In addition, Andean bear is considered to be an umbrella species because its protection and that of the ecosystems in which it lives, means the conservation of other species of flora and fauna that are highly strategic for the life of the Andean forests and the moors.
After the survey of the area and initial research of the bear activity in several ecosystems around Loja, we decided to focus more on the habitat use presented by the bears rather than on the use of bromeliads, as the normal foraging behaviour typical for the season (feeding mainly on plants in paramo and seldom switching to the forest) was not carried out.
Many successful studies focused on the habitat use of the Andean bear were based on evaluation of the signs of abundance of the species in its environment, thus for our research we decided to adopt this exact method. Because there are many challenges in accessibility of the terrain, for our sign sampling we selected areas close to the main pathways in each of the study sites and we preferred to carry out our analysis in the manner of plot survey.
Indications of bear activities were collected in six study sites. Three sites were located in the paramo ecosystem and three were located in the upper montane humid forest. In each of the study sites five plots in size of 50m x 50m were placed. All the plots were placed in an aspect to different features of microhabitat (slopes, vegetation types etc.). To avoid replications all of the plots in each site were at least 250m apart. Once the start of the plot was detected, we marked the starting point with a red tape and followed a straight line according to GPS up to the other corner of the plot (everything was repeated again for the whole plot). Red tapes were placed along the whole plot at »10-m intervals to assure that during the examination the whole plot was investigated. After completion the whole plot was investigated through by a team of two to three people. For each plot we collected GPS (global positioning system) coordinates of the location and the type of the sign. Types of signs we collected included: faeces, ground nests, party eaten plants, scratch marks, hairs and footprints.