International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 158–174 | Cite as

A Global-Scale Evaluation of Primate Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Change

  • Tanya L. Graham
  • H. Damon Matthews
  • Sarah E. Turner


Human-induced climate change poses many potential threats to nonhuman primate species, many of which are already threatened by human activities such as deforestation, hunting, and the exotic pet trade. Here, we assessed the exposure and potential vulnerability of all nonhuman primate species to projected future temperature and precipitation changes. We found that overall, nonhuman primates will experience 10 % more warming than the global mean, with some primate species experiencing >1.5 °C for every °C of global warming. Precipitation changes are likely to be quite varied across primate ranges (from >7.5 % increases per °C of global warming to >7.5 % decreases). We also identified individual endangered species with existing vulnerabilities (owing to their small range areas, specialized diet, or restricted habitat use) that are expected to experience the largest climate changes. Finally, we defined hotspots of primate vulnerability to climate changes as areas with many primate species, high concentrations of endangered species, and large expected climate changes. Although all primate species will experience substantial changes from current climatic conditions, our hotspot analysis suggests that species in Central America, the Amazon, and southeastern Brazil, as well as portions of East and Southeast Asia, may be the most vulnerable to the anticipated impacts of global warming. It is essential that impacts of human-induced climate change be a priority for research and conservation planning in primatology, particularly for species that are already threatened by other human pressures. The vulnerable species and regional hotspots that we identify here represent critical priorities for conservation efforts, as existing challenges are expected to become increasingly compounded by the impacts of global warming.


Climate change IUCN Nonhuman primates Spatial analysis Threatened species 



We thank J. Freeman, D. Naud, and the members of the Concordia Climate Science, Impacts and Mitigation Studies (C2SIMS) Lab for their contributions and feedback during the research process, as well as D. Seto and M. Burelli for G.I.S. technical support. We thank J. Setchell, A. Korstjens, and one anonymous reviewer for their helpful suggestions and critiques of earlier versions of this manuscript. We would also like to express our appreciation for access to the All the World’s Primates database and to M. Myers for answering our questions about the data therein. T. L. Graham and H. D. Matthews acknowledge funding from the Concordia Institute for Water, Energy and Sustainable Systems (CIWESS) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). S. E. Turner thanks Le Fonds de recherche du Québec–Nature et technologies (FRQNT) for a postdoctoral fellowship that helped support this research, S. Reader for his support, and L. Gould for helpful conversations during early phases of this project. H. D. Matthews and S. E. Turner thank M. Amichai for childcare.

Supplementary material

10764_2016_9890_Fig7_ESM.gif (159 kb)
Fig. S1

Average temperature and precipitation change expected for each primate species. The dotted lines outline the boundaries of the climate change severity categories shown in Table III. Species are color-coded by genus, as given by the color bar. (GIF 159 kb)

10764_2016_9890_MOESM1_ESM.eps (455 kb)
High Resolution Image (EPS 454 kb)
10764_2016_9890_Fig8_ESM.gif (188 kb)
Fig. S2

Average (circles) and standard deviation (lines) of temperature and precipitation change for each primate genus. The dotted lines outline the boundaries of the climate change severity categories shown in Table III. Genera are color coded according to the color bar, and those genera expected to experience the largest climate changes (category 4 or higher) are also labeled on the plot. (GIF 187 kb)

10764_2016_9890_MOESM2_ESM.eps (422 kb)
High Resolution Image (EPS 421 kb)
10764_2016_9890_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (263 kb)
Fig. S3 Hotspots of primate vulnerability to global warming, calculated as in Fig. 6, but using the number of genera rather than the number of species per km2. Hotspot scores are calculated (per km2) as the product of normalized measures of genera richness, average extinction risk, and climate change severity, and are classified here by quantile. Darkest pixels (upper quantiles) indicate locations of high genera richness, where primates are currently threatened by human pressures, and where large changes in temperature and/or precipitation are expected to occur. (PDF 263 kb)
10764_2016_9890_MOESM4_ESM.docx (156 kb)
Table SI (DOCX 155 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tanya L. Graham
    • 1
  • H. Damon Matthews
    • 1
  • Sarah E. Turner
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geography, Planning and EnvironmentConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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