Author(s): ArroyoRodrguez V, Dias PA
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Abstract We examined the literature on the effects of habitat fragmentation and disturbance on howler monkeys (genus Alouatta) to (1) identify different threats that may affect howlers in fragmented landscapes; (2) review specific predictions developed in fragmentation theory and (3) identify the empirical evidence supporting these predictions. Although howlers are known for their ability to persist in both conserved and disturbed conditions, we found evidence that they are negatively affected by high levels of habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation. Patch size appears to be the main factor constraining populations in fragmented habitats, probably because patch size is positively related to food availability, and negatively related to anthropogenic pressures, physiological stress and parasite loads. Patch isolation is not a strong predictor of either patch occupancy or population size in howlers, a result that may be related to the ability of howlers to move among forest patches. Thus, we propose that it is probable that habitat loss has larger consistent negative effects on howler populations than habitat fragmentation per se. In general, food availability decreases with patch size, not only due to habitat loss, but also because the density of big trees, plant species richness and howlers' home range size are lower in smaller patches, where howlers' population densities are commonly higher. However, it is unclear which vegetation attributes have the biggest influence on howler populations. Similarly, our knowledge is still limited concerning the effects of postfragmentation threats (e.g. hunting and logging) on howlers living in forest patches, and how several endogenous threats (e.g. genetic diversity, physiological stress, and parasitism) affect the distribution, population structure and persistence of howlers. More long-term studies with comparable methods are necessary to quantify some of the patterns discussed in this review, and determine through meta-analyses whether there are significant inter-specific differences in species' responses to habitat loss and fragmentation. (c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
This article was published in Am J Primatol
and referenced in Journal of Primatology