Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 25 Jan '17Published in: American Journal of Primatology
Understanding the ecological factors that influence the presence, abundance, and distribution of species within their habitats is critical for ensuring their long-term conservation. In the case of primary consumers, such as most primates, the availability and richness of plant foods are considered key drivers of population density at these variables influence the spatial distribution of social units within a finer, habitat patch level scale. We tested the hypothesis that the spatiotemporal availability and richness of plant foods, drive the spatial distribution of brown howler monkeys (Alouatta guariba clamitans) at a fine spatial scale. We established five line transects (2.6-4.3 km long) to census the population of brown howlers in Morro São Pedro, a 1,200 ha Atlantic forest remnant in southern Brazil, every 2 weeks from January to June 2015. We used data from tree inventories performed in sighting and control plots, and phenological surveys of 17 top food tree species to estimate bi-weekly food availability. We recorded a total of 95 sightings. The number of sightings per sampling period ranged from 2 to 12. The availability of fruit (ripe and unripe) was higher in sighting than in control plots, whereas leaf availability and the richness of food tree species was similar. We conclude that the spatial distribution of fruiting trees and the availability of fruit drive the pattern of habitat use, and spacing of brown howler groups in Morro São Pedro.