Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Herbert Covert

Second Advisor

Dennis VanGerven

Third Advisor

Matt Sponheimer

Abstract

To understand a particular species' or community's response to forest fragments, the habitat attributes and the landscape pattern must first be quantified. However, methodology that identifies the influence of landscape pattern and local habitat structural attributes on species or community viability is poorly developed for non-human primates in fragmented forests. Successful primate conservation requires an understanding of how environmental variability at both micro- and macro-scales affects community structure and habitat use. The objective of this research was to identify landscape and local ecological characteristics that affect lemur community richness, abundance, and diversity using spatial analysis at multiple scales in Betampona Natural Reserve, Madagascar. This was accomplished through a landscape ecology perspective to document the effects of environmental heterogeneity on habitat use, behavior, and movement patterns among a community of five diurnal lemurs in a forest fragment. Vegetation structural analysis within forest patches, point-counts, and radio-collar-aided follows, in conjunction with Geographic Information Systems, were methods used to address the disconnect that has emerged involving the importance of landscape spatial pattern and primate extinction risk. The main conclusions of this research include: 1) the quantified patches demonstrate differences in micro - and macro-habitat attributes, 2) variation exists in lemur community structure and diversity indices within the patches, 3) point-count data suggest that micro- and macrohabitat features affect lemur resting, moving, and feeding behaviors, whereas radio-collar-aided follows indicate that macrohabitat has less of an effect on lemur behavior, 4) it is inappropriate to make broad generalizations based on a particular response of one population, one group, or even one individual primate to habitat alteration and extinction risk with any degree of certainty, and 5) consolidating ecological and behavioral variation into a single category such as "fragmentation," undermines the ability to identify correlates of extinction risk. The development of conservation methodology and building comprehensive data sets to understand how biodiversity utilizes its environment at multiple spatial scales is vital. These data will provide information for reforestation and corridor projects in an island nation where forests are disappearing, demanding conservation solutions that aim to reinforce the balance between development and biodiversity.

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