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Research Article

Identifying important forest patches for the long-term persistence of the endangered golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas). [ 63-77 ]

Sara L. Zeigler, William F. Fagan, Ruth DeFries, and Becky E. Raboy

As habitat for the golden-headed lion tamarin (GHLT; Leontopithecus chrysomelas) in Brazil’s Atlantic forest becomes smaller and more fragmented, remaining large forest patches may be critical to the persistence of the species. The objectives of our study were to identify the forest patch size that could support a viable population of GHLTs under a range of risk scenarios and to locate patches meeting these size requirements. We found the self-sustaining minimum viable population (MVP) size of GHLTs using the simulation program Vortex under a baseline model and under several anthropogenic disturbance models. We multiplied the MVP size determined in each model scenario by low, medium, and high GHLT population densities to estimate a minimum area requirement. We then used a forest cover map derived through a supervised classification of 2004-2008 Landsat 5TM imagery to locate forest patches meeting the range of minimum area requirements. We found that the MVP size of GHLTs is 70-960 individuals, requiring a forest patch size of 700-18,113 ha depending on the risk level or scenario considered. We found one forest patch that could support a genetically viable, self-sustaining population of GHLTs under the highest level of risk. However, only one federally protected reserve known to currently support GHLTs exists within the range of the species while continuing deforestation, land conversion, and construction projects are real and major threats to the remaining GHLT habitat. Research into the quality and occupancy of the largest patches highlighted here as well as additional protection of habitat needs to be a priority for GHLT conservation.

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    English: Habitat loss is the primary threat to the survival of species throughout the world. As habitat is lost, individual habitat patches become smaller and more isolated from other patches. In response to this decrease in resources, populations of species inhabiting those patches also become smaller with less genetic diversity and ultimately have a higher extinction risk. The protection of large tracts of contiguous habitat therefore becomes critical to reducing the extinction risk of such species. The golden-headed lion tamarin (GHLT; Leontopithecus chrysomelas) is one of many endemic species of the Brazilian Atlantic forest where deforestation is a significant threat. Large forest patches may be especially important for the survival of this endangered arboreal primate that maintains large home ranges at low population densities. The main objective of our study was to determine the number and location of forest patches that are large enough to support a population of GHLTs with a low risk of extinction and high genetic diversity despite the potential negative effects of fire and disease. Though we found multiple large forest patches, we found only one patch that is large enough to support a population of GHLTs with high genetic diversity under the highest level of threat from fire and disease. Considering that only one federally protected reserve known to currently support GHLTs exists within the species’ range while continuing deforestation and land conversion are major threats to remaining GHLT habitat, we recommend further research into the quality of the largest patches highlighted in our study as well as additional protection of habitat within the range of the species.

    Español: Zeigler et al señalan que el tamarino león de cabeza dorada, Leontopithecus chrysomelas, es uno de varios primates endémicos en la selva Atlántica de Brasil, estando bajo amenaza debido a la deforestación. Los autores sugieren que los parche de selva de tamaño grande parecen ser importantes para la supervivencia de esta especie primate. Este primate mantiene áreas de suministro de grandes extensiones, manteniendo sus poblaciones en densidad bajas. Así, la meta del estudio de Zeigler et al fue determinar el número y ubicación de aquellos parches de selva de tamaño grande que podrían ser adecuados para sostener a poblaciones de los tamarinos con una probabilidad de extinción baja y una diversidad genética alta. A pesar de que los autores encontraron varios parches de tamaño grande en el área de estudio, solo uno de ellos parece ser adecuado para la conservación de los tamarinos león de cabeza dorada. Sin embargo, los autores también puntualizan que la deforestación continuada, la conversión de la selva a agrosistemas y construcción de oleoductos, son amenazas importantes para la conservación del hábitat de los tamarinos.
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   Tropical Conservation Science is an open-access e-journal that publishes research relating to conservation of tropical forests and other tropical ecosystems.

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