Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Past environmental changes affected lemur population dynamics prior to human impact in Madagascar

Quaternary climatic changes have been invoked as important drivers of species diversification worldwide. However, the impact of such changes on vegetation and animal population dynamics in tropical regions remains debated. To overcome this uncertainty, we integrated high-resolution paleoenvironmental reconstructions from a sedimentary record covering the past 25,000 years with demographic inferences of a forest-dwelling primate species (Microcebus arnholdi), in northern Madagascar. Result comparisons suggest that climate changes through the African Humid Period (15.2 – 5.5 kyr) strongly affected the demographic dynamics of M. arnholdi.We further inferred a population decline in the last millennium which
was likely shaped by the combination of climatic and anthropogenic impacts. Our findings demonstrate that population fluctuations in Malagasy wildlife were substantial prior to a significant human impact. This provides a critical knowledge of climatically driven, environmental and ecological changes in the past, which is essential to better understand the dynamics and resilience of current biodiversity.
 

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