Primates and climate change: a review of current knowledge

Authors: Korstjens, A.H. and Hillyer, A.P.

Editors: Wich, S.A. and Marshall, A.J.

Pages: 175-192

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Place of Publication: Oxford

ISBN: 9780198703389

Climate change is affecting primate environments in all primate habitat countries. Based on climate predictions, Malagasy, most Asian, and Neotropical primates are facing an increased frequency of extreme precipitation events and cyclones that can decimate whole communities. West and South African primates are facing a reduction in precipitation whilst East African primates will experience increased rainfall. Increased rainfall and CO2 levels can benefit fruit eaters as it tends to increase fruit production but it also increases parasite and disease risk. Increased temperatures, as predicted across the tropics, can disproportionally affect folivores as it reduces leaf quality. As relatively long-lived species with short dispersal distances and limited ranges, primates are unlikely to keep up with the pace at which climate change is occurring. It is, however, very difficult to predict how individual populations or species will adapt to climate change because of the complexity of the expected changes and the interaction between climate change and human habitat disturbance. Species’ responses will depend on species-specific traits, socio-ecology, and phenotypic and genetic plasticity, and ultimately on how humans mitigate climate change through policy, population management and forest management. A lot more research is needed on the role that climate plays in shaping primate distributions and on successful mitigation strategies that incorporate the interactive effects of human disturbance of the environment in combination with climate change effects. While climate change research is moving extremely fast, our understanding of the relationship between primates and varying climatic conditions is lacking behind.

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