Edge effects and their influence on lemur density and distribution in Southeast Madagascar



Edge effects are caused by the penetration of abiotic and biotic conditions from the matrix into forest interiors. Although edge effects influence the biogeography of many tropical organisms, they have not been studied directly in primates. Edge effects are particularly relevant to lemurs due to the loss of 80–90% of forests in Madagascar. In this study, data are presented on how biotic edge effects influenced the distribution and density of lemurs in the Vohibola III Classified Forest in southeastern Madagascar. In total, 415 lemur surveys were conducted during June–October 2003 and May–September 2004 along six 1,250-m transects that ran perpendicular to the forest edge. Data were also collected on lemur food trees along the six transects (density, height, diameter at breast height, area, volume, and distance to forest edge). Four nocturnal species (Avahi laniger, Cheirogaleus major, Lepilemur microdon, and Microcebus rufus) and four diurnal species (Eulemur rubriventer, Eulemur fulvus rufus, Hapalemur grisesus griseus, and Propithecus diadema edwardsi) were sighted during surveys. Regression analyses of lemur densities as a function of distance to forest edge provided edge tolerances for A. laniger (edge-tolerant), M. rufus (edge-tolerant), E. rubriventer (edge-tolerant or omnipresent), and H. g. griseus (omnipresent). The density and distribution of M. rufus and their foods trees were correlated. Edge-related variations in food quality and predation pressures may also be influencing lemurs in Vohibola III. Tolerance for edge effects may explain, in part, how lemurs have survived extreme habitat loss and forest fragmentation in southeastern Madagascar. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.