Monkey Forest Tales: Possible explanations about why primate’s movement is not static in this highly fragmented landscape

San Martin (zonas Proyecto Zocay)

Google Earth’s image of the landscape in which the study area is located.

Today’s post is based on observations made over the past 15 years on primate species and other species movements in the landscape. One of the first thing that comes to my mind from all what I had seen in the study area is how variable and non-static seems to be primate and other species movements in the landscape of the study area. Even inside the big fragments in the landscape.

For example, in the larger fragment in the study area, even in the same months of different years, it wasn’t always possible to find primates in areas where they were observed in other years. Although this can be partially explained by the variability in the production of fruit trees from one year to the next. It also can be a product of other factors influencing the forest fragment like hunting, selective logging, and predation by domestic animals (dogs especially).

As mentioned in another post, the study area is a highly fragmented landscape composed of forest fragments (gallery and lowland rain forest) of different sizes immersed in a matrix of pastures, natural savannas, perennial crops, and palm oil plantations. In this system, some forest fragments seem to be too small to maintain primate’s groups but also, they seem to be used only as stepping stones to travel longer distances by other mammals and birds (toucans, parrots, tayras, giant ant-eaters, peccaries, jaguar and other carnivorous).

Over the years some primate movements seem to follow a clear pattern influenced by some resource availability such as fruits. For example, we had observed how Colombian squirrel monkeys use different fragments on certain months in search of certain fruits, while other months they use smaller fragments and living fences for frogs, insects, and fruits.

However, some other primate movements like the sporadic short visits to small fragments made by black-capped capuchins don’t seem to be related by any specific food resource. It is also not every year that a particular group of black-capped capuchin moves towards that small fragment. So why is that? For this particular group of black-capped capuchin other factors such as predation by domestic dogs can be a factor, but we need more data.

Additionally, the presence of regenerating areas, abandon watermelon crops and in some cases, palm oil plantations seem to be the reason for the persistence of some species that are more used to open areas such as deer, giant ant-eaters, tayras, and short-eared dogs.

The role of regenerating areas on reducing biodiversity loss had been discussed in the scientific literature. Its function as a new available area for territories as well as connecting habitat and a new source of resources is also important for many mammals and birds dispersing between large areas in highly-transformed landscapes.


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