Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Mapping trees can help count endangered lemurs



Lemur numbers plummet for some species, higher than anticipated for others, models find
Date:  August 30, 2018
Source:  Duke University
Summary:
Putting a figure on the number of endangered lemurs left in the wild isn't easy, but researchers say one clue might help: the plants they rely on for food. Bamboo lemur populations in their native Madagascar may have shrunk by half over the last two decades; red-fronted brown lemurs by as much as 85 percent. But numbers for other lemur species may not be as low as feared, new models suggest.
The vast majority of lemur species are on the edge of extinction, experts warn. But not every lemur species faces a grim future. There may be as many as 1.3 million white-fronted brown lemurs still in the wild, for example, and mouse lemurs may number more than 2 million, a Duke-led study has shown.
"For some lemurs, there may be healthy populations remaining and our conservation efforts are preserving them," said lead author James Herrera of Duke University.
The findings come from statistical modeling techniques that estimate the total population sizes and geographic ranges for 19 of the roughly 100 recognized lemur species across Madagascar by using the plants they rely on for food as a proxy for counting animals.
These tree-dwelling primates eat mostly fruits, leaves and flowers, such as African star apples, mangosteens, tamarinds and figs across Madagascar, the only place in the world where lemurs live in the wild.
In a study published August 30 in the Journal of Biogeography, researchers show that lemurs are less abundant in areas that lack certain tree species -- even when environmental conditions such as temperature, precipitation and elevation are otherwise suitable.
Using this relationship, the team was able to come up with the first estimates of total population size for some lesser-known species, such as Crossley's dwarf lemur. These estimates can be critical baseline data for managing what's left.

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