Stable isotopes document resource partitioning and effects of forest disturbance on sympatric cheirogaleid lemurs
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- Crowley, B.E., Blanco, M.B., Arrigo-Nelson, S.J. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2013) 100: 943. doi:10.1007/s00114-013-1094-6
The future of Madagascar’s forests and their resident lemurs is precarious. Determining how species respond to forest fragmentation is essential for management efforts. We use stable isotope biogeochemistry to investigate how disturbance affects resource partitioning between two genera of cheirogaleid lemurs (Cheirogaleus and Microcebus) from three humid forest sites: continuous and fragmented forest at Tsinjoarivo, and selectively logged forest at Ranomafana. We test three hypotheses: (H1) cheirogaleids are unaffected by forest fragmentation, (H2) species respond individually to disturbance and may exploit novel resources in fragmented habitat, and (H3) species alter their behavior to rely on the same key resource in disturbed forest. We find significant isotopic differences among species and localities. Carbon data suggest that Microcebus feed lower in the canopy than Cheirogaleus at all three localities and that sympatric Cheirogaleus crossleyi and C. sibreei feed at different canopy heights in the fragmented forest. Microcbus have higher nitrogen isotope values than Cheirogaleus at all localities, indicating more faunivory. After accounting for baseline isotope values in plants, our results provide the most support for H3. We find similar isotopic variations among localities for both genera. Small differences in carbon among localities may reflect shifts in diet or habitat use. Elevated nitrogen values for cheirogaleid lemurs in fragments may reflect increased arthropod consumption or nutritional stress. These results suggest that cheirogaleids are affected by forest disturbance in Eastern Madagascar and stress the importance of accounting for baseline isotopic differences in plants in any work comparing localities.