Habitat Use and Activity Patterns as an Indication of Fragment Quality in a Strepsirrhine Primate
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- Gabriel, D.N. Int J Primatol (2013) 34: 388. doi:10.1007/s10764-013-9668-x
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Considerable intraspecific variation exists in responses to habitat fragmentation owing to regional differences in fragment quality. Habitat use and activity patterns of resident populations are related to the abundance and predictability of resources in time and space, and thus space use is one of the most important considerations for evaluating habitat quality. Here I examine inter- and intrasite differences in the ranging behavior; use of the matrix, i.e., surrounding nonhabitat; and activity budgets of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) inhabiting two forest fragments—Anja Special Reserve and Tsaranoro Valley Sacred Forest—in Madagascar’s central highlands to test the prediction that intraspecific variation in habitat use and activity patterns is indicative of fragment quality. At Anja, Lemur catta has access to abundant year-round anthropogenic resources (introduced fruit trees, agricultural crops, water), whereas the population at Tsaranoro relies on seasonally variable and patchily distributed resources throughout the forest and matrix. Lemur catta at Anja occupy smaller home ranges; have shorter daily path lengths (DPLs); and spend less time foraging and more time resting, locomoting, and engaging in social and territorial behavior. In contrast, groups at Tsaranoro occupy larger home ranges, have longer DPLs, rely heavily on the matrix, and expend most of their energy in foraging behavior. These differences point to variation in the relative habitat quality of the two fragments and are thus an important consideration for conservation managers when assessing the capacity of forest fragments to sustain populations.