FOREST LOSS AND FRAGMENTATION IN SOUTHERN BAHIA, BRAZIL: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE EXTINCTION RISK OF GOLDEN-HEADED LION TAMARINS (Leontopithecus chrysomelas)
Zeigler, Sara Lynn
Fagan, William F
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Golden-headed lion tamarins (GHLTs; Leontopithecus chrysomelas) are Endangered arboreal primates endemic to the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, where continuing loss of forest and its connectivity are major threats. The objectives of my research were to assess the vulnerability of GHLTs to habitat loss, fragmentation, and threats related to small population size in the context of past, current, and future trends in range-wide forest cover in Brazil's Atlantic Forest. I did this by conducting a supervised classification of Landsat 5TM remotely-sensed imagery to define past and current forest cover in the region, analyzing connectivity patterns in a graph theoretical framework, projecting recent deforestation patterns into the future using a multi-layer perceptron neural network, and modeling GHLT metapopulaton viability using population viability analysis. I found that forest cover has declined throughout the range of the species by 13% over the last 20 years, and only one habitat patch is large enough on its own to support a genetically viable GHLT population able to recover from extrinsic threats such as fire and disease. Functional landscape connectivity, which is important for population persistence, acquisition of resources, and maintenance of genetic diversity, is low at the distance and movement cost thresholds likely associated with this arboreal species that is rarely seen in non-forest matrix. The majority of remaining forest cover throughout the species' range is found in patches that are either (1) too small to support even a single group of GHLTs or (2) found at low elevations, in areas of high human population density, or in close proximity to previously cleared areas--conditions that are associated with past deforestation patterns and that make current habitat vulnerable to loss. Finally, I found that many of the known GHLT populations have a moderate to high risk of local extinction even over short time scales and assuming no further forest loss, and their presence may represent extinction debt. Continued deforestation will accelerate population declines and local extinction events. The results of my dissertation research suggest that GHLTs and their habitat face significant threats and low viability in the future because of both ultimate and proximate drivers of extinction.