Thinking like a mountain; biogeography
Cartographers are generally big-picture thinkers. Especially since the advent of GIS (Geographic Information Systems), which interfaces between maps and databases, we can ask increasingly sophisticated questions of our maps. I created the following cartoon of a bear’s landscape movements in collaboration with Kim Titus of the Department of Fish & Game, based upon his studies of telemetered bears. Since that time, wildlife studies have become ever more sophisticated, following, for example, the hourly movements of collared deer through intimately mapped terrain.
The brown bear’s year 1) Emergence Late-March through May. Most dens are in the high country. 2) Spring Bears descend in search of sedges, skunk cabbage, and deer carcasses. Key habitats include south-facing avalanche slopes, fens, and especially tidal marshes. 3) Early summer Breeding season. Until midsummer, bears are dispersed from sea level to alpine ridges. Tidal sedge flats, subalpine meadows, upland forests, and avalanche slopes are the principal foraging habitats. 4) Salmon By mid-July, most bears move into riparian forests and tidal estuaries for pink and chum salmon. Small, shallow reaches areeasiest to fish, claimed by dominant individuals. Some sows with cubs never use the streams. 5) Berries Beginning in mid-September, bears move into high forest and
avalanche slopes for currants and devil’s club berries. 6) Denning Pregnant females are entering dens by mid-October, in roots of large trees or natural rock caves. Males are last to enter dens.
Landscape ecology connects the biotic and abiotic. In this case, big trees reflect the distribution of carbonate rocks, which in turn are arrayed according to the position of ancient geological terranes.