Research highlight

Climate change: Climate change threatens lemurs

Nature Climate Change

December 24, 2019

Ruffed lemurs, a representative species in Madagascar, could lose 38 - 93% of habitat by 2070 as a result of climate change and deforestation, according to a paper published in Nature Climate Change.

Madagascar, home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, is experiencing all of the major global change threats, including climate change, invasive species, overharvesting, and habitat loss and fragmentation. Ninety-six percent of Madagascar’s 101 lemur species are listed as threatened, making them one of the most imperilled groups of vertebrates globally. Ruffed lemurs are uniquely responsible for dispersing the seeds of a number of plant species in Malagasy rainforests. Therefore, these lemurs’ ecological niche is an ideal representation for a healthy rainforest habitat.

Andrea Baden, Toni Lyn Morelli, Adam Smith and colleagues estimated how climate change and habitat loss, both individually and combined, will impact the long-term survival of Madagascar’s forest. The authors modelled changes in rainforest cover up to 2070 under strict (no deforestation) and relaxed (deforestation can occur) protection. They combined decades of research to show that the suitable habitat for ruffed lemurs could reduce by 29 - 59% from deforestation and 14 - 75% from climate change, or 38 - 95% from both, by 2070.

These results highlight the vulnerable state of the Malagasy eastern rainforest, with climate change and deforestation threatening the ecosystem and its inhabitants. Strict protection of the forest is needed to ensure the persistence of this biodiversity hotspot, the authors argue.

doi: 10.1038/s41558-019-0647-x

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