Understanding how human disturbance affects tropical forest ecosystems and the genetic structure of the species inhabiting those areas is critical for the mitigation of future losses in global biodiversity. We studied the endangered Udzungwa red colobus monkey (Procolobus gordonorum), which is endemic to the Udzungwa Mountains (Tanzania). This species thrives in large and well-protected blocks of old growth forest and it has been suggested that a healthy Udzungwa red colobus population will be indicative of a healthy rainforest ecosystem. The goal of our study was to understand whether or not distributions of genetic variation in the Udzungwa red colobus monkey have been affected by forest fragmentation, and if natural or human-related landscape features best explain genetic differentiation. We collected 170 fecal samples from 5 forest blocks and genotyped them using a panel of 10 microsatellite markers. We identified a total of 120 individuals. Traditional population genetic analyses identified two population clusters but yielded ambiguous results as to the cause of genetic differentiation among Udzungwa red colobus populations. In contrast, landscape resistance models found that the combination of fire density on the landscape, distance to village, and resistance to cross railroads best explains the data. These results demonstrate the effects that human activities are having in an area of high global conservation priority and suggest that this ecosystem is in a precarious state.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Title of host publication||American Journal of Primatologists|
|Volume||77 Supplement 1|
|State||Published - 2015|