Habitat fragmentation, livelihood behaviors, and contact between people and nonhuman primates in Africa

Abstract

Context

Deforestation and landscape fragmentation have been identified as processes enabling direct transmission of zoonotic infections. Certain human behaviors provide opportunities for direct contact between humans and wild nonhuman primates (NHPs), but are often missing from studies linking landscape level factors and observed infectious diseases.

Objectives

Our objective is to better understand landscape and livelihood factors influencing human-NHP contact in rural communities whose landscapes undergo deforestation. We investigate core loss and edge density within a buffered area around survey respondent households to identify which landscape changes and behaviors increase the risk of human-NHP contact.

Methods

Behavioral survey data were collected from small-scale agriculturists living near forest fragments around Kibale National Park in western Uganda. We combined spatially explicit behavioral data with high-resolution satellite imagery. Using land cover classification and change detection, we investigated the relationships between forest loss and fragmentation, behavioral data, and human-NHP contact using logistic regression.

Results

Between 2011 and 2015, there were differences in the landscape metrics around the households of individuals who had experienced human-NHP contact compared to those who had not had contact. Increased edge density around households, collection of small trees for construction, and foraging and hunting for food in forested habitat significantly increase the likelihood of human-NHP contact.

Conclusion

This study provides empirical evidence that forest landscape fragmentation and certain smallholders’ behaviors in forest patches jointly increase the likelihood of human-NHP contact events. Combining spatially explicit data on land use and human behaviors is crucial for understanding the social and ecological drivers of human-NHP contact.

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Data availability

The data generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available due to the sensitive nature of geographically explicit data on individual behaviors and personal health information of the survey respondents. Sharing of composite data or future collaborative projects may be possible from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to local research assistants in Uganda who assisted in the collection of the data presented in this paper and without whom this project would not have been possible. We are grateful to the Kibale EcoHealth Project whose leaders provided guidance in working within local communities. We appreciate the critical review of the manuscript by our peer reviewers and journal editors. This research was primarily supported by the Spectrum Innovation Grant for Population Health Sciences through Stanford University School of Medicine which was funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health through UL1TR001085. Additionally, this research was supported by the McGee and Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources summer research grants through the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, the Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies, and the Center for African Studies at Stanford University. Support for L.S.P. Bloomfield was provided by the Medical Scientist Training Program, the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, and the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) Scholar Award.

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Correspondence to Laura S. P. Bloomfield.

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Bloomfield, L.S.P., McIntosh, T.L. & Lambin, E.F. Habitat fragmentation, livelihood behaviors, and contact between people and nonhuman primates in Africa. Landscape Ecol 35, 985–1000 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-020-00995-w

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Keywords

  • Land use and land cover change
  • Forest fragmentation
  • Agricultural livelihoods
  • Human-wildlife contact
  • Zoonotic risk
  • Kibale National Park, Uganda