Landscape attributes affecting patch occupancy by howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata mexicana) at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico



Understanding how forest cover is related to patch attributes such as size, shape, and isolation, and how this influences the occurrence of a species in fragmented landscapes is an important question in landscape ecology and conservation biology. To study the effects of fragmentation on patch occupancy by the critically endangered Mexican mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata mexicana) in the Los Tuxtlas region of Mexico, we selected three landscapes of ca. 5,000 ha, which differed in their remaining forest cover (24, 11, and 4%). For each landscape, we related patch occupancy to forest cover, patch size and shape, and four isolation parameters. Landscape attributes varied according to forest cover, and the percentage of occupation was greater in landscapes with more forest cover. The attributes affecting the probability of occupancy differed among landscapes. Occupancy was positively related to patch size in all landscapes, but in the northernmost landscape, shape irregularity had a negative effect on occupancy, whereas in the southernmost landscape, occupancy was favored by greater distances to the nearest village. The results show that not only the total amount of forest cover but also patch configuration need to be taken into consideration when designing management strategies for the conservation of the Mexican mantled howler monkey. Am. J. Primatol. 70:69–77, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.