Predicting species' responses to environmental change: identifying the roles of ecological and biological traits versus stochastic events in driving the biogeography of diurnal African primates
Authors: Korstjens, A.H., Williams, K. and Slater, H.D.
Start date: 21 August 2016
Climate change and human activities are greatly altering the environments in which non-human primates live and it is important that we understand how primates will respond to these changes if we wish to support their survival. To predict species’ responses to changes, we need to understand the mechanisms behind observed species-habitat relationships. However, the actual species-habitat relationships and the underlying mechanisms behind them are still poorly understood and stochastic factors also play an important role in primate biogeography. Therefore, we investigated which biological traits underlie observed species-habitat relationships for all major mainland African diurnal primate genera at >200 field sites using the fourth corner method (RLQ analyses) and GLM analyses. Distribution patterns of genera correlated most strongly with temperature seasonality, rainfall, rainfall seasonality, and canopy height. This means that genus-typical biological traits (locomotion, diet, limb proportions, body mass, grouping, age at first reproduction) are not strongly linked to genus-environment relationships. Thus, although biological traits remain important for individual species, differences between primate genera in biogeographical distributions are not clearly linked to their biological differences (less so than those of other animals). This means that we need to consider predictive models that incorporate dispersal ability and stochastic factors for continent-wide studies whilst biological trait-based mechanistic models may be most appropriate at localised scales. For more details see the LEAP Project (http://go-leap.wix.com/home).