Main content area

Habitat requirements and differential abundance of the culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus) in the high Andes of southern Ecuador

Guntiñas, Marta, Lozano, Jorge, Cisneros, Rodrigo, Narváez, Carlos, Arias, Daniela
European journal of wildlife research 2019 v.65 no.1 pp. 18
Lycalopex culpaeus, Podocarpus, altitude, climate, climate change, ecosystems, feces, genetic analysis, habitat fragmentation, land use, landscapes, linear models, microhabitats, national parks, rain, temperature, vegetation cover, Andes region, Ecuador
Basic information on culpeos’ ecology for vast regions of its range is lacking. A model was built explaining the differential abundance of culpeos in the high Ecuadorian Andes. This model considered several environmental variables and is the first approach to evaluate the culpeo’s habitat requirements in Ecuador. Fixed 1-km transects were established along paths in the highest areas of Podocarpus National Park. Here, a culpeo abundance index (AI) was calculated monthly for each transect during a year. The AI was derived from the occurrence frequency of scats, and genetic analyses were performed to confirm scat identifications. Environmental variables (e.g., climate, vegetation cover, environmental richness, and diversity) were measured at two spatial scales (microhabitat and landscape). Predictors were grouped into orthogonal factors, and general linear models (GLM) were obtained by applying a selection method of models. The results show that the highest culpeo abundances were associated with well-preserved homogeneous areas that had high levels of rainfall and extreme temperatures, with these features being characteristic of pure “paramo” at the highest altitudes. In addition, a strong positive relationship was also found with the abundance of the mountain tapir. It is suggested that the subspecies of culpeo inhabiting this region could be particularly adapted to the ecological conditions of paramo areas. If so, habitat fragmentation and ongoing changes in land use, as well as climate change, could be potential threats for the culpeo both in the study area and the entire Ecuadorian high-Andean ecosystem.