NOVARO andres Jose
Habitat use and preference by guanacos, vicuñas, and livestock in an altitudinal gradient in northwest Argentina
WURSTTEN, A.; WALKER, R. S.; NOVARO, A. J.
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE RESEARCH
Lugar: Berlin; Año: 2013 vol. 60 p. 35 - 43
Distribution of ungulates is regulated by natural factors, such as presence of other species, climate, and habitat variability, as well as human activities, including livestock grazing and mining. Understanding the spatial dynamics of landscape use can help solve problems of access to key resources by native herbivores. Laguna Brava Reserve is a protected area of Argentina where the two wild South American camelids, guanacos and vicuñas, coexist with cattle, mules, horses, and goats. Information about the effects of livestock and mining activities, which are widespread throughout the region, on wild camelids is scarce. We used variable-width transects to determine the distribution of guanacos, vicuñas, equids, and cattle in relation to five habitat types defined according to vegetation and topography in the reserve. We carried out a correspondence analysis between the proportion of groups observed in and the proportion of area occupied by each habitat, and a χ2 goodness of fit test to establish if camelids and livestock selected a particular habitat type. Vicuñas were associated with grasslands at high altitudes while guanacos and livestock were associated with shrublands at lower elevations. This coevolutionary segregation between guanacos and vicuñas possibly reduced competition between the two species. Competition between camelids and livestock is probably low because of the low density of livestock. Vegas were preferred by all species year round but used more intensively in summer. In order to conserve the wild camelids of the region, governments must implement measures to conserve the critical habitat provided by the vegas.