Journal Article

Elevation gradients of lemur abundance emphasise the importance of Madagascar’s lowland rainforest for the conservation of endemic taxa


1. Elevation gradients correlate with changes in several environmental conditions and are known to be related to animal abundance. Animals in regions with a naturally limited extent of lowland rainforest are expected to have evolved adaptations to intermediate elevations that provided a stable environment during their evolution. 2. Since the lowland rainforest of Madagascar has a limited extent and suffers from increasing anthropogenic pressure, it is essential to understand how well species tolerate intermediate and high elevations. In this study, we aim to quantify the relationship between lemur abundance and elevation in the eastern rainforest of Madagascar. 3. We correlated abundance data on 26 lemur species (10 genera), including 492 records from 26 studies, with elevation. We analysed the consistency of correlations across species with a meta‚Äźanalytical approach. We controlled for species’ body mass, elevational range and median elevation. We then ran generalised linear mixed models to determine whether lemur abundance was related to elevation, body mass, plant productivity and anthropogenic disturbance. 4. Overall, the abundance of lemur species in Malagasy rainforests was negatively correlated with elevation, and species occupying broader elevational ranges showed stronger correlations. Body mass was not related to species’ tolerance of high elevations. Even though several lemur species are able to occupy the entire elevation gradient, the few remaining patches of lowland rainforests host lemur species at greater abundances than other sites. Abundance across species was negatively related to body mass, elevation and seasonality in plant productivity and positively related to plant productivity. 5. Despite the ecological flexibility of many lemur species, the remnant patches of lowland rainforests host the highest levels of lemur abundance and are key to lemur conservation. It is crucial to preserve this priority habitat both for biodiversity conservation and for our understanding of lemur adaptations.

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Campera, Marco
Santini, Luca
Balestri, Michela
Nekaris, K.A.I.
Donati, Giuseppe

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2019
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-02-19

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