The Effects of Biogeography and Biotic Interactions on Lemur Community Assembly
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Geographic patterns of biodiversity result from broad-scale biogeographic and present-day ecological processes. The aim of this study was to investigate the relative importance of biogeographic history and ecology driving patterns of diversity in modern primate communities in Madagascar. I collected data on endemic lemur species co-occurrence from range maps and survey literature for 100 communities in protected areas. I quantified and compared taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional dimensions of intra- and intersite diversity. I tested environmental and geographic predictors of diversity and endemism. I calculated deforestation rates within protected areas between the years 2000 and 2014, and tested if diversity is related to forest cover and loss. I found the phylogenetic structure of lemur communities could be explained primarily by remotely sensed plant productivity, supporting the hypothesis that there was ecological differentiation among ecoregions, while functional-trait disparity was not strongly related to environment. Taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity also increased with increasing topographic heterogeneity. Beta diversity was explained by both differences in ecology among localities and potential river barriers. Approximately 3000 km2 were deforested in protected areas since the year 2000, threatening the most diverse communities (up to 31%/park). The strong positive association of plant productivity and topographic heterogeneity with lemur diversity indicates that high productivity, rugged landscapes support greater diversity. Both ecology and river barriers influenced lemur community ecology and biogeography. These results underscore the need for focused conservation efforts to slow the loss of irreplaceable evolutionary and ecological diversity.
KeywordsBeta diversity Deforestation Geographic barriers Macroecology Phylogenetic community ecology Species richness
I thank the National Science Foundation (Graduate Research Fellowship), Stony Brook University (Turner Fellowship), and the American Museum of Natural History (Gerstner Scholarship) for funding. I thank the following colleagues for helpful comments on this research and earlier drafts of the manuscript: P. C. Wright, E. R. Seiffert, L. M. Dávalos, W. L. Jungers, C. L. Nunn, C. H. Graham, C. Raxworthy, J. J. Flynn, N. B. Simmons, W. Pearse, and S. Desbureaux; members of the AMNH Ecological and Evolutionary Modelling Discussion Group, especially F. Burbrink; and members of the AMNH Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, especially S. Macey. I thank three anonymous reviewers of this manuscript submitted elsewhere, two anonymous reviewers at International Journal of Primatology, and especially J. Setchell for giving helpful feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript and pointing out ways to improve the research.
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