Conservation biology of malagasy strepsirhines: A phylogenetic approach

  • Lehman S
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Abstract

The phylogenetic diversity of extant lemurs represents one of the most important but least studied aspects of the conservation biology of primates. The phylogenetic diversity of a species is inversely proportional to the relative number and closeness of its phylogenetic relatives. Phylogenetic diversity can then be used to determine conservation priorities for specific biogeographic regions. Although Malagasy strepsirhines represent the highest phylogenetic diversity among primates at the global level, there are few phylogenetic data on species-specific and regional conservation plans for lemurs in Madagascar. Therefore, in this paper the following questions are addressed for extant lemurs: (1) how does the measure of taxonomic uniqueness used by Mittermeier et al. (1992) equate with an index of phylogenetic diversity, (2) what are the regional conservation priorities based on analyses of phylogenetic diversity in extant lemurs, and (3) what conservation recommendations can be made based on analyses of phylogenetic diversity in lemurs? Taxonomic endemicity standardized weight (TESW) indices of phylogenetic diversity were used to determine the evolutionary component of biodiversity and to prioritize regions for conserving lemur taxa. TESW refers to the standardization of phylogenetic diversity indices for widespread taxa and endemicity of species. The phylogenetic data came from recent genetic studies of Malagasy strepsirhines at the species level. Lemur species were assigned as being either present or absent in six biogeographic regions. TESW indices were combined with data on lemur complementarity and protected areas to assign conservation priorities at the regional level. Although there were no overall differences between taxonomic ranks and the phylogenetic rankings, there were significant differences for the top-ranked taxa. The phylogenetic component of lemur diversity is greatest for Daubentonia madagascariensis, Allocebus trichotis, Lepilemur septentrionalis, Indri indri, and Mirza coquereli. Regional conservation priorities are highest for lemurs that range into northeast humid forests and western dry forests. Expansion of existing protected areas in these regions may provide the most rapid method for preserving lemurs. In the long-term, new protected areas must be created because there are lemur species that: (1) are not found in existing protected areas, (2) exist only in one or two protected areas, and (3) are still being discovered outside of the current network of protected areas. Data on the population dynamics and feeding ecology of phylogenetically important species are needed to ensure that protected areas adequately conserve lemur populations in Madagascar.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Complementarity
  • Endemism
  • Lemurs
  • Madagascar
  • Phylogenetic diversity
  • Protected areas

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Authors

  • Shawn M. Lehman

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