Habitat Preferences of the Critically Endangered Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) and Densities of One of Its Primary Food Sources, Madagascar Giant Bamboo (Cathariostachys madagascariensis), in Sites with Different Degrees of Anthropogenic and Natural Disturbance
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Understanding the habitat preferences of a species is critical to the management and conservation of its population. The Critically Endangered greater bamboo lemur, Prolemur simus, is patchily distributed across its geographic range, using a very limited fraction of its total area of occurrence. The ecological basis for this patchy distribution remains largely unexplained. We analyzed the local habitat factors affecting the habitat use of Prolemur simus and densities of one of its primary food sources Madagascar giant bamboo, Cathariostachys madagascariensis. We sampled vegetation and site characteristics along belt transects in mid-altitude rain forest areas of the Ankeniheny–Zahamena rain forest corridor in eastern Madagascar, with (N = 10) and without (N = 16) evidence of habitat use by Prolemur simus. In our study site the preferred habitat type of Prolemur simus appears to be primary forest stands with moderate to low levels of human disturbance, greater natural disturbance, high densities of large diameter bamboo, and high structural diversity in tree heights. Cathariostachys madagascariensis appears to exploit canopy gaps created by natural disturbances, and similarly often exploits areas of anthropogenic disturbance. We found the highest densities of bamboo to occur in areas of moderate anthropogenic disturbance, whereas larger diameter culms were associated with lower levels of disturbance and smaller culms with areas of high anthropogenic disturbance. Human use of the forest and protection of the habitat of Prolemur simus are not necessarily incompatible, but our data indicate that the severity and frequency of use should probably be relatively low. Our results suggest that in our study site management strategies that minimize human disturbances, promote structural diversity in tree heights, and maintain relatively high densities of large-culmed bamboo may benefit populations of Prolemur simus.
KeywordsAnkeniheny–Zahamena corridor Bamboo Disturbance Habitat use Madagascar
We thank the Madagascar Ministry of Environment and Forests; the communities in which we worked; Fandrianmihaja, S. P. Ramamy, A. Bonaventure, M. Mbaraka, our porters and cooks, and Association Mitsinjo botanist Youssouf; and our local research assistants E. Randrianantenaina, J. Rakotonindriana , Ramaromitsinjo, and Ratelolahy. We thank R. M. Randrianarison, L. Olson , M. Gross, C. Diosana, M. Ozdogan, R. Beattie, S. Alatout, J. Patz , and the 2010 UW–Madison CHANGE cohort for their assistance and Ané C for statistical advice and review. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their recommended improvements to an earlier version of this manuscript. This project was funded principally through the National Science Foundation –Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship–Certificate for Humans and the Global Environment (CHANGE) Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with contributions from The Aspinall Foundation’s “Saving Prolemur simus” project. Additional funding for R. A. Marsh was provided by the Peace Corps and a Doris Duke Foundation Conservation Fellowship.
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