In addition to being the largest native land mammal in Florida, the Florida black bear is also one of the most widely-ranging native mammals in the state. Because Florida black bears eat so many different kinds of food that are available in different seasons of the year, they not only require a very large natural habitat, they also require a very diverse natural habitat. Florida black bears forage for food in several different types of forests, including pine flatwoods, hardwood swamps, cypress swamps, cabbage palm forests, sand pine scrub, sandhills, and mixed hardwood hammocks.
In this Lesson Eight: Bear Neighbors, students will learn numerous Florida plant communities, examples of animal species that share black bear habitat, and discuss why the Florida black bear is an umbrella species.
As human population growth and development in Florida increase, the amount of natural, undisturbed sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, and freshwater swamp habitat available for animal species such as the Florida black bear decreases. Today, one of the greatest overall threats to the Florida black bear is habitat loss (the permanent alteration or conversion of natural habitat for human use). In order to ensure the continued success of the Florida black bear in the wild, large areas of the bear’s natural habitat must be conserved. Because stable, healthy Florida black bear populations require such large areas of natural habitat, conserving habitat for the Florida black bear also conserves habitat for many other species sharing the black bear’s habitat, including many rare, threatened, and endangered species. Because so many different types of plant, mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, and even fish and invertebrate species will be conserved if the Florida black bear’s habitat is conserved, the Florida black bear is often referred to as an umbrella species.
In addition to its value as an umbrella species, the Florida black bear is also an important indicator species. Indicator species are species whose population size and population health are used to gauge the overall health and quality of an ecosystem. If an area supports a healthy, adequately-sized population of an indicator species like the Florida black bear, the ecosystem in that area is considered to be healthy. When the population size or overall health of the population of an indicator species declines, it serves as a sign that the health of the overall ecosystem might also be declining.
Key Question: What other animals live where Florida black bears live?
Main Topic: The role of Florida black bear as an umbrella species for other species of plants and animals
Format: Reading and art activity
Description: Students use clues to insert pictures of common, rare, threatened and endangered animals into a mural depicting three major plant communities used by Florida black bears. They then discuss the concept of Florida black bear as an umbrella species.
Common Core Standards: Coming Soon