The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

The role of ecology and human activities in determining abundance and occupancy within fragmented primate communities of northern Madagascar


1Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, 2Département des Sciences Naturelles et de l'Environnement, Université d'Antsiranana

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Human population trends in many of the countries that support tropical forests where the majority of the world’s biodiversity resides, often exceeds a 3% annual growth rate, a pattern which reflects a growing interface between humans and wildlife. As management strategies aimed at conserving wildlife are considered, a critical step involves distinguishing between the impact of human activities and natural phenomena on wildlife populations. We censused diurnal primates using standardized line transect methodology (>1200 km walked between July 2013 and July 2012) and sampled ~1.5 ha in intensively studied forest fragments in northern Madagascar (n=12) using botanical assessment techniques. During the same period we repeatedly visited a subset of smaller (<100 ha) forest fragments to assess primate presence-absence patterns across the landscape. We quantified factors associated with the spatial, structural and compositional characteristics of forests in addition to those describing patterns of human disturbance. We used generalized linear mixed models to assess the relative impact of these factors on primate abundance and occupancy, controlling for site identity. Results varied across species yet collectively, ecological factors (e.g. substrate type and sympatric primate density) were the most informative in explaining variation in primate densities and occupancy patterns. Despite the strong relative importance of ecology, human driven factors (e.g. fire) did improve the predictive power of some models without sacrificing overall model fit. These results reinforce the importance of multi-factorial approaches to modeling primate densities and distribution while highlighting the value of stratified sampling to address both local and regional management considerations.

This study was funded by the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, Primate Conservation, Inc., Primate Action Fund, NGO Fanamby and the W. Burghardt Turner Fellowship Program.

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