Monkey Forest Tales: Importance of small fragments in highly fragmented areas

Figura 1 Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. Decision Point

In this post, the importance of small fragments (less than 5 ha) in highly fragmented areas is highlighted. Traditionally small fragments importance for the survivorship and persistence of primate species has been diminished, except for a study of forest fragments in Africa (Chapman 2006).

In the study area, small fragments of less than 5 hectares are used by primate groups of all species as stepping stones during dispersion events, as part of their daily travels and as dormitories inside of the group’s home range. The use of these fragments seems to be seasonal and influenced by resource availability inside those small fragments and the general resource availability in the whole area.

For example, one of the small fragments, which has been surveyed for several years, has been used by solitary individuals of red howler monkeys, Colombian squirrel monkeys, and dusky titi monkeys as a stepping stone while dispersing in a pasture matrix with living fences. Black-capped capuchins have been observed crossing pastures towards small fragments, where they spend a couple of days before returning to the main forest fragment in which their territory is located.

During this dispersion events, an individual moves and search food in small fragments over several days while moving between fragments in search of a partner to form a new group. In addition to this, small fragments are used by all species as dormitories inside of their home range where their home range includes several fragments connected by living fences.

In addition, small fragments are used by all species in the study area to supplement species home range during the months in which fruit production in the area is reduced. In those months, all primate species travel long distances searching for fruits, using resources available in pastures, living fences and small fragments increasing the distances they travel daily. In the study area, part of these small fragments are located close to natural and artificial lakes that provides individuals of Colombian squirrel monkeys and black-capped capuchins with additional resources such as small frogs and aquatic insect not always available in their main territory.

Additional to primates, these small fragments also serve as stepping stones for birds movement as well as a source of food resources for birds, reptiles and other mammals. The giant anteater, tayras, collared peccaries as well as toucans, woodpeckers, parrots, snakes, and lizards have been observed using these small forest fragments as part of the movements in the landscape. Giant anteaters also used small fragments as dormitories, while tayras used both small fragments and pastures as feeding grounds.

In highly fragmented areas where primate species lives surrounded by human activities, small fragments have been traditionally used as a cover for livestock in large pastures. These fragments increase the heterogeneity of the landscape allowing wildlife persistence and helping wildlife move in the transformed matrix.

Management of biodiversity in highly fragmented areas benefits from the presence and incorporation of small fragments and additional structures such as living fences and isolated trees inside of pastures. Preservation and maintenance of small fragments is an important management action in highly fragmented areas that can be done cost/effectively allowing natural regeneration inside those small fragments.

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