Rio Tinto, Madagascar
Rio Tinto, Madagascar

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Eppley T.M.,University of Hamburg | Eppley T.M.,Oxford Brookes University | Donati G.,Oxford Brookes University | Ramanamanjato J.-B.,QIT Madagascar Minerals | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

The lemurs of Madagascar are among the most threatened mammalian taxa in the world, with habitat loss due to shifting cultivation and timber harvest heavily contributing to their precarious state. Deforestation often leads to fragmentation, resulting in mixed-habitat matrices throughout a landscape where disturbed areas are prone to invasion by exotic plants. Our study site, the Mandena littoral forest (southeast Madagascar), is a matrix of littoral forest, littoral swamp, and Melaleuca swamp habitats. Here, Melaleuca quinquenervia has invaded the wetland ecosystem, creating a mono-dominant habitat that currently provides the only potential habitat corridor between forest fragments. We sought to understand the role of this invasive Melaleuca swamp on the behavioral ecology of a threatened, smallbodied folivore, the southern bamboo lemur (Hapalemur meridionalis). We collected botanical and behavioral data on four groups of H. meridionalis between January and December 2013. Our results confirm Melaleuca swamp as an important part of their home range: while lemurs seasonally limited activities to certain habitats, all groups were capable of utilizing this invasive habitat for feeding and resting. Furthermore, the fact that Hapalemur use an invasive plant species as a dispersal corridor increases our knowledge of their ecological flexibility, and may be useful in the conservation management of remaining threatened populations. © 2015 Kong et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Balestri M.,Oxford Brookes University | Balestri M.,University of Pisa | Barresi M.,University of Pisa | Campera M.,Oxford Brookes University | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

The littoral forest on sandy soil is among the most threatened habitats in Madagascar and, as such, it represents a hot-spot within a conservation hot-spot. Assessing the health of the resident lemur fauna is not only critical for the long-term viability of these populations, but also necessary for the future re-habilitation of this unique habitat. Since the Endangered collared brown lemur, Eulemur collaris, is the largest seed disperser of the Malagasy south-eastern littoral forest its survival in this habitat is crucial. In this study we compared fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) levels, a measure of physiological stress and potential early indicator of population health, between groups of collared brown lemurs living in a degraded forest fragment and groups occurring in a more preserved area. For this, we nalysed 279 fecal samples collected year-round from 4 groups of collared brown lemurs using a validated 11-oxoetiocholanolone enzyme immunoassay and tested if fGCM levels were influenced by reproductive stages, phenological seasons, sex, and habitat degradation. The lemurs living in the degraded forest had significantly higher fGCM levels than those living in the more preserved area. In particular, the highest fGCM levels were found during the mating season in all animals and in females during gestation in the degraded forest. Since mating and gestation are both occurring during the lean season in the littoral forest, these results likely reflect a combination of ecological and reproductive pressures. Our findings provide a clear indication that habitat degradation has additive effects to the challenges found in the natural habitat. Since increased stress hormone output may have long-term negative effects on population health and reproduction, our data emphasize the need for and may add to the development of effective conservation plans for the species. © 2014 Balestri et al.


Donati G.,Oxford Brookes University | Donati G.,University of Pisa | Kesch K.,University of Hamburg | Ndremifidy K.,University of Antananarivo | And 4 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Background: Frugivorous primates are known to encounter many problems to cope with habitat degradation, due to the fluctuating spatial and temporal distribution of their food resources. Since lemur communities evolved strategies to deal with periods of food scarcity, these primates are expected to be naturally adapted to fluctuating ecological conditions and to tolerate a certain degree of habitat changes. However, behavioral and ecological strategies adopted by frugivorous lemurs to survive in secondary habitats have been little investigated. Here, we compared the behavioral ecology of collared lemurs (Eulemur collaris) in a degraded fragment of littoral forest of south-east Madagascar, Mandena, with that of their conspecifics in a more intact habitat, Sainte Luce. Methodology/Principal Findings: Lemur groups in Mandena and in Sainte Luce were censused in 2004/2007 and in 2000, respectively. Data were collected via instantaneous sampling on five lemur groups totaling 1,698 observation hours. The Shannon index was used to determine dietary diversity and nutritional analyses were conducted to assess food quality. All feeding trees were identified and measured, and ranging areas determined via the minimum convex polygon. In the degraded area lemurs were able to modify several aspects of their feeding strategies by decreasing group size and by increasing feeding time, ranging areas, and number of feeding trees. The above strategies were apparently able to counteract a clear reduction in both food quality and size of feeding trees. Conclusions/Significance: Our findings indicate that collared lemurs in littoral forest fragments modified their behavior to cope with the pressures of fluctuating resource availability. The observed flexibility is likely to be an adaptation to Malagasy rainforests, which are known to undergo periods of fruit scarcity and low productivity. These results should be carefully considered when relocating lemurs or when selecting suitable areas for their conservation. © 2011 Donati et al.


Campera M.,Oxford Brookes University | Campera M.,University of Pisa | Serra V.,University of Pisa | Balestri M.,Oxford Brookes University | And 5 more authors.
International Journal of Primatology | Year: 2014

Degraded forest habitats typically show low fruit availability and scattered fruit tree distribution. This has been shown to force frugivorous primates either to move further in search of food, resulting in large home ranges, or to use energy saving strategies. Malagasy lemurs are known to face pronounced seasonality and resource unpredictability, which is amplified by the overall reduction in food availability due to the human-driven habitat disturbance on the island. To explore lemur flexibility to habitat disturbance, we examined the ranging behavior of collared brown lemurs (Eulemur collaris) in two differently degraded fragments of littoral forest of southeastern Madagascar. We collected data from February 2011 to January 2012 on two groups living in a degraded area and two groups living in a less disturbed forest. We calculated annual ranges, monthly ranges, and daily distance traveled. We then ran repeated measures ANOVAs using seasonality as dichotomous, intrasubject factor and site/group as intersubject nested factors. In the degraded forest, the lemurs had larger monthly ranges, and their annual ranges were either fragmented or characterized by multiple core areas. They were able to use a habitat mosaic that also included nonforested areas and swamps. In addition, they shortened their daily path length, possibly to preserve energy, and used different areas of their annual home ranges seasonally. Although a number of possible confounding factors may have been responsible for the observed differences between sites, our findings highlight the ranging flexibility of collared brown lemurs in littoral forest fragments. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


PubMed | Oxford Brookes University, QIT Madagascar Minerals and University of Hamburg
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2015

The lemurs of Madagascar are among the most threatened mammalian taxa in the world, with habitat loss due to shifting cultivation and timber harvest heavily contributing to their precarious state. Deforestation often leads to fragmentation, resulting in mixed-habitat matrices throughout a landscape where disturbed areas are prone to invasion by exotic plants. Our study site, the Mandena littoral forest (southeast Madagascar), is a matrix of littoral forest, littoral swamp, and Melaleuca swamp habitats. Here, Melaleuca quinquenervia has invaded the wetland ecosystem, creating a mono-dominant habitat that currently provides the only potential habitat corridor between forest fragments. We sought to understand the role of this invasive Melaleuca swamp on the behavioral ecology of a threatened, small-bodied folivore, the southern bamboo lemur (Hapalemur meridionalis). We collected botanical and behavioral data on four groups of H. meridionalis between January and December 2013. Our results confirm Melaleuca swamp as an important part of their home range: while lemurs seasonally limited activities to certain habitats, all groups were capable of utilizing this invasive habitat for feeding and resting. Furthermore, the fact that Hapalemur use an invasive plant species as a dispersal corridor increases our knowledge of their ecological flexibility, and may be useful in the conservation management of remaining threatened populations.


PubMed | Oxford Brookes University, Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, University of Pisa and QIT Madagascar Minerals
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2014

The littoral forest on sandy soil is among the most threatened habitats in Madagascar and, as such, it represents a hot-spot within a conservation hot-spot. Assessing the health of the resident lemur fauna is not only critical for the long-term viability of these populations, but also necessary for the future re-habilitation of this unique habitat. Since the Endangered collared brown lemur, Eulemur collaris, is the largest seed disperser of the Malagasy south-eastern littoral forest its survival in this habitat is crucial. In this study we compared fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) levels, a measure of physiological stress and potential early indicator of population health, between groups of collared brown lemurs living in a degraded forest fragment and groups occurring in a more preserved area. For this, we analysed 279 fecal samples collected year-round from 4 groups of collared brown lemurs using a validated 11-oxoetiocholanolone enzyme immunoassay and tested if fGCM levels were influenced by reproductive stages, phenological seasons, sex, and habitat degradation. The lemurs living in the degraded forest had significantly higher fGCM levels than those living in the more preserved area. In particular, the highest fGCM levels were found during the mating season in all animals and in females during gestation in the degraded forest. Since mating and gestation are both occurring during the lean season in the littoral forest, these results likely reflect a combination of ecological and reproductive pressures. Our findings provide a clear indication that habitat degradation has additive effects to the challenges found in the natural habitat. Since increased stress hormone output may have long-term negative effects on population health and reproduction, our data emphasize the need for and may add to the development of effective conservation plans for the species.

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