Anthropogenic and Climatic Effects on the Distribution of Eulemur Species: An Ecological Niche Modeling Approach
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- Kamilar, J.M. & Tecot, S.R. Int J Primatol (2016) 37: 47. doi:10.1007/s10764-015-9875-8
Several factors can influence primate distributions, including evolutionary history, interspecific competition, climate, and anthropogenic impacts. In Madagascar, several small spatial scale studies have shown that anthropogenic habitat modification affects the density and distribution of many lemur species. Ecological niche models can be used to examine broad-scale influences of anthropogenic impacts on primate distributions. In this study, we examine how climate and anthropogenic factors influence the distribution of 11 Eulemur species using ecological niche models. Specifically, we created one set of models only using rainfall and temperature variables. We then created a second set of models that combined these climate variables with three anthropogenic factors: distance to dense settlements, villages, and croplands. We used MaxEnt to generate all the models. We found that the addition of anthropogenic variables improved the climate models. Also, most Eulemur species exhibited reduced predicted geographic distributions once anthropogenic factors were added to the model. Distance to dense settlements was the most important anthropogenic factor in most cases. We suggest that including anthropogenic variables in ecological niche models is important for understanding primate distributions, especially in regions with significant human impacts. In addition, we identify several Eulemur species that were most affected by anthropogenic factors and should be the focus of increased conservation efforts.