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Thesis title: Lemurs as protectors of the forest: Lemur seed dispersal, forest regeneration and local livelihoods in the littoral forest fragments of Madagascar
Start year: 2016
Madagascar is one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. Being a biodiversity hotspot makes it a global conservation priority. Unfortunately, many of the species inhabiting the island are currently facing extinction. Some of the island’s most famous inhabitants – lemurs – are no exception.
Lemurs are among the most important seed dispersers in Madagascar and the fact that many of the species are endangered poses an additional threat to the structure and regeneration of Malagasy forests. Majority of the large-seed plants growing in the already heavily disturbed forests are predominantly reliant on big lemurs species, such as collared lemurs. Their potential local extirpations and the ensuing loss of these fruit-frugivore interactions may have serious consequences to the entire ecosystem.
This uncertainty of forests' future may be putting the livelihoods of local human population at jeopardy as well, as many of the local villagers depend on the forest for crops, timber and non-timber forest products. Even though it is easy to see that determining the inter-relationship between lemurs, local population and forest regeneration should be a priority, this has to date remained almost unexamined. This project, which will be carried out in three different areas of fragmented littoral forest in south-eastern Madagascar, will assess the role that lemurs play in the forest regeneration, as well as investigate the relationship between local human population and the ecosystem.
We hope to use this study to obtain more detailed information on seed-dispersal distances, in forest fragments and plantations alike. We also aim to provide a better understanding of the effects of this type of seed dispersal on seeds themselves. This will be achieved through germination trials and subsequent seedling monitoring, as well as investigation of secondary seed dispersal and predation.
To gain knowledge of the relationship between the ecosystem and the local population, we will interview people living in nearby communities. Information gained from them will reveal which tree species they rely on, for which purpose and to what extent. This will allow us to make predictions about how the future presence or absence of large lemurs, as well as lemur-dispersed plant species could impact local people's livelihoods. Our hope is that this project will help build a way towards a more sustainable coexistence between humans and wildlife in south-eastern Madagascar.
conservation, Eulemur collaris, forest regeneration, lemur, littoral forest, Madagascar, seed dispersal
animal behaviour, animal welfare, biological anthropology, conservation, conservation education, ethnoprimatology, ethnozoology, evolutionary psychology, human-animal relationships, social anthropology, sociobiology, zoology