AboutZoos, Since 2008


Map­ping soft­ware tracks threats to Endan­gered Species

pub­lished 16 April 2016 | mod­i­fied 16 April 2016

San Martin titi monkeyHabi­tat map­ping soft­ware and satel­lite imagery can help con­ser­va­tion­ists pre­dict the move­ments of endan­gered species in remote or inac­ces­si­ble regions and pin­point areas where con­ser­va­tion efforts should be pri­or­i­tized, a new Duke University-​led case study shows.

The Duke team used the soft­ware and images to assess recent for­est loss restrict­ing the move­ment of Peru’s crit­i­cally endan­gered San Mar­tin titi mon­key (Cal­lice­bus oenan­the) and iden­tify the 10 per­cent of remain­ing for­est in the species’ range that presents the best oppor­tu­nity for con­ser­va­tion. The find­ings are pub­lished online on 3 March in the jour­nal Envi­ron­men­tal Conservation.

Com­pre­hen­sive on-​the-​ground assess­ments would have taken much more time and been cost-​prohibitive given the inac­ces­si­bil­ity of much of the ter­rain and the frag­mented dis­tri­b­u­tion and rare nature of this species [San Mar­tin titi monkey].
Dan­ica Schaffer-​Smith, lead author, doc­toral stu­dent, Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment »

Using these tools, we were able to work with a local con­ser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tion to rapidly pin­point areas where refor­esta­tion and con­ser­va­tion have the best chance of suc­cess,” added Dan­ica Schaffer-​Smith.

San Mar­tin titi mon­key
The San Mar­tin titi mon­key inhab­its an area about the size of Con­necti­cut in the low­land forests of north cen­tral Peru. In 2011 the IUCN has upgraded the con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of the species on the Red List from Vul­ner­a­ble to Crit­i­cally Endan­gered. Fur­ther­more, it was in 2012 added to the Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature’s list of the 25 most endan­gered pri­mates in the world, stress­ing the need for con­ser­va­tion actions.

Increased farm­ing, log­ging, min­ing and urban­iza­tion have frag­mented forests across much of the monkey’s once-​remote native range and con­tributed to an esti­mated 80 per­cent decrease in its pop­u­la­tion over the last 25 years.

Titi mon­keys travel an aver­age of 663 meters a day, pri­mar­ily mov­ing from branch to branch to search for food, social­ize or escape preda­tors. With­out well-​connected tree canopies, they’re less able to sur­vive local threats and dis­tur­bances, or recol­o­nize in suit­able new habi­tats. The diminu­tive species, which typ­i­cally weighs just two to three pounds at matu­rity, mate for life and pro­duce at most one off­spring a year. Mated pairs are some­times seen inter­twin­ing their long tails when sit­ting next to each other.

(Source: Proyecto Mono Tocón YouTube chan­nel)

The project
Armed with Aster and Land­sat satel­lite images show­ing the pace and extent of recent for­est loss, and Geo­HAT, a down­load­able geospa­tial habi­tat assess­ment toolkit devel­oped at Duke, Schaffer-​Smith worked with Anto­nio Bóveda-​Penalba, pro­gramme coor­di­na­tor at the Peru­vian NGO Proyecto Mono Tocón, to pri­or­i­tize where con­ser­va­tion efforts should be focused.

The images and soft­ware, com­bined with Proyecto Mono Tocón’s detailed knowl­edge of the titi monkey’s behav­iours and habi­tats, allowed us to assess which patches and cor­ri­dors of the remain­ing for­est were the most crit­i­cal to pro­tect,” said Jen­nifer Swen­son, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of the prac­tice of geospa­tial analy­sis at Duke, who was part of the research team.

The results
The team’s analy­sis revealed that at least 34 per­cent of low­land forests in the monkey’s north­ern range, Peru’s Alto Mayo Val­ley, have been lost. It also showed that nearly 95 per­cent of remain­ing habi­tat frag­ments are likely too small and poorly con­nected to sup­port viable pop­u­la­tions; and less than 8 per­cent of all remain­ing suit­able habi­tats lie within exist­ing con­ser­va­tion areas.

Areas the model showed had the high­est con­nec­tiv­ity com­prise just 10 per­cent of the remain­ing for­est in the north­ern range, along with small patches else­where. These forests present the best oppor­tu­ni­ties for giv­ing the highly mobile titi mon­key the pro­tected paths for move­ment it needs to survive.

Based on this analy­sis, the team iden­ti­fied a 10-​kilometre cor­ri­dor between Peru’s Morro de Calzada and Almen­dra con­ser­va­tion areas as a high pri­or­ity for protection.

For many rare species threat­ened by active habi­tat loss, the clock is lit­er­ally tick­ing,” Schaffer-​Smith said. “Soft­ware tools like Geo­HAT — or sim­i­lar soft­ware such as Cir­cuitScape — can spell the dif­fer­ence between act­ing in time to save them or wait­ing till it’s too late.”

(Source: Duke Uni­ver­sity, Nicholas School of the Envi­ron­ment news release, 12.04.2016)

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