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2024Open access

Losing lemurs: Declining populations and land cover changes over space and time

Narvaez-Torres, Pamela R.; Guthrie, Nicola K.; Brichieri-Colombi, Typhenn A.; Razafindravelo, Cressant P.; Jacobson, Zachary S.; Tera, Fredo; Rafidimanana, Daniel V.; Rahasivelo, Ze-Elinah; Petersen, Melody A.; Ramangason, Hasinala; Randall, Lea; Mcpherson, Jana M.; Frasier, Cynthia L.; Moehrenschlager, Axel; Holmes, Sheila M.; Louis Jr, Edward E.; Johnson, Steig E.

Abstract

Forest loss and degradation due to land cover changes imperil biodiversity worldwide. Subtropical and tropical ecosystems experience high deforestation rates, negatively affecting species like primates. Madagascar's endemic lemurs face exceptionally high risks of population declines and extirpation. We examined how short-term land cover changes within a fragmented landscape in southeastern Madagascar impacted the density of lemur species. Using line transects, we assessed density changes in nine lemur species across five forest fragments. Diurnal surveys were conducted monthly from 2015 to 2019 on 35 transects (total effort = 1268 km). Additionally, 21 transects were surveyed nocturnally in 2015 and 2016 (total effort = 107.5 km). To quantify forest cover changes, we generated land use/land cover (LULC) maps from Sentinel-2 imagery using supervised classification for each year. For the LULC maps, we overlayed species-specific buffers around all transects and calculated the proportion of land cover classes within them. We observed declines in the annual densities of four diurnal and cathemeral lemur species between 2015 and 2019, with species-specific declines of up to 80% (Varecia variegata). While the density of two nocturnal species decreased, one increased fivefold (Cheirogaleus major) between 2015 and 2016. By 2019, Grassland was the dominant land type (50%), while Paddy Fields had the smallest coverage (1.03%). Mature Agricultural Land increased the most (63.37%), while New Agricultural Land decreased the most (-66.36%). Unexpectedly, we did not find evidence that higher forest cover supported a higher lemur population density within sampled areas, but we found support for the negative impact of degraded land cover types on three lemur species. Our study underscores the urgent need to address land-use changes and their repercussions for primate populations in tropical ecosystems. The diverse responses of lemur species to modified habitats highlight the complexity of these impacts and emphasize the importance of targeted conservation efforts.Losing lemurs: declining populations and land cover changes over space and time. imageKianjavato experienced a substantial loss of forest cover between 2015 and 2019, with an average annual forest loss (3.4%) that is considerably higher than the national average (1.1%). We observed a decrease in the density of six out of seven lemur species in the Kianjavato forest fragments. Structurally simpler land cover types such as grasslands emerged as a factor negatively influencing the density of three lemur species, while tree fallow positively influenced three species.

Keywords

conservation; deforestation; density; habitat loss; Madagascar

Published in

American Journal of Primatology
2024, article number: e23615

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
    Ecology
    Forest Science

    Publication identifier

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.23615

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/128777