Lemur responses to edge effects in the Vohibola III classified forest, Madagascar



Forest edges are dynamic zones characterized by the penetration (to varying depths and intensities) of conditions from the surrounding environment (matrix) into the forest interior. Although edge effects influence many tropical organisms, they have not been studied directly in primates. Edge effects are particularly relevant to lemurs because of the highly fragmented forest landscapes found in Madagascar. In this study, data are presented regarding how the densities of six lemur species (Avahi laniger, Cheirogaleus major, Eulemur rubriventer, Hapalemur griseus griseus, Microcebus rufus, and Propithecus diadema edwardsi) varied between six 500-m interior transects and six 500-m edge transects in the Vohibola III Classified Forest in SE Madagascar. Diurnal (n = 433) and nocturnal (n = 128) lemur surveys were conducted during June–October 2003 and May–November 2004. A. laniger, E. rubriventer, and H. g. griseus exhibited a neutral edge response (no differences in densities between habitats). M. rufus and P. d. edwardsi had a positive edge response (higher densities in edge habitats), which may be related to edge-related variations in food abundance and quality. Positive edge responses by M. rufus and P. d. edwardsi may ultimately be detrimental due to edge-related anthropogenic factors (e.g., hunting by local people). The negative edge response exhibited by C. major (lower densities in edge habitats) may result from heightened ambient temperatures that inhibit torpor in edge habitats. Am. J. Primatol. 68:293–299, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.