Effects of Altitude on the Conservation Biogeography of Lemurs in SouthEast Madagascar

Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


The island of Madagascar is characterized by high levels of biodiversity and endemism, with at least 70 % of the 12,000 plant species and all of the approximately 93 primate species found nowhere else in the world. These biogeographic patterns are remarkable given that on-going climate change and anthropogenic disturbances have resulted in the conversion of 40 % of the original forest cover into grasslands and agricultural fields. This incongruence between high lemur diversity and anthropogenic disturbance provides for an ideal natural setting for research on the effects of altitude on lemur conservation biogeography. In addition to reviewing lemur biogeography as it pertains to altitude, I investigated the biogeography of lemur species diversity and assemblages at 16 sites in montane and cloud forests in southeast Madagascar. Although lemur species diversity showed a significant negative relationship with site elevation, this relationship held only for sites lower than 1,500 m elevation. There was strong evidence for nestedness in terms of the effects of altitudinal variation on lemur assemblage patterns across the sites, indicating that those species that range into the relatively high-altitude sites are a subset of those that range in relatively low altitude sites. This nestedness is likely due to the combined effects of lower temperatures and reduced resource abundance at higher elevations. Lemurs face an uncertain future across the elevation gradients within this landscape, irrespective of their tolerance for high-altitude habitats.


Endemicity Species assemblage Nestedness High altitude Diversity 



I thank Sharon Gursky, Alicia Krzton, and Nanda Grow for their kind invitation to participate in this edited volume. I thank the Repoblikani’i Madagasikara Ministère de l’Environment et des Forêts Madagascar and University of Antananarivo for permission to conduct my research in Madagascar. For their support, advice, and hospitality, I thank Patricia Wright, Benjamin Andriamahaja, Jonah Ratsimbazafy, the amazing staff at ICTE/MICET, Fanja Raoelinirina, and the staff at La Maison du Pyla. I am grateful to the many men and women who have assisted me in my research in Madagascar, particularly Andry Rajaonson. I thank Travis Steffens for his assistance in creating the forest coverage map, and Ryan Burke and the two reviewers for their insightful comments on an early draft. My research is supported by The University of Toronto and a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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