Aspinall Foundation conservationists contributed to a recent publication in the high impact journal "Nature Climate Change" entitled "The fate of Madagascar’s rainforest habitat". We provided 456 geo-referenced observations of black-and-white ruffed lemurs, and 4 of red ruffed lemurs, spanning the full wild range of these species. Along with data from numerous other teams, the information was used to model habitat requirements of ruffed lemurs in the rainforests of Madagascar, and then to project the relative impacts of deforestation and climate change on rainforest habitat. The results were somewhat shocking.
Madagascar has experienced extensive deforestation and overharvesting, and anthropogenic climate change will compound these pressures. Anticipating these threats to endangered species and their ecosystems requires considering both climate change and habitat loss effects. The genus Varecia (ruffed lemurs), which is composed of two Critically Endangered forest-obligate species, can serve as a status indicator of the biodiverse eastern rainforest of Madagascar. Here, we combined decades of research to show that the suitable habitat for ruffed lemurs could be reduced by 29–59% from deforestation, 14–75% from climate change (representative concentration pathway 8.5) or 38–93% from both by 2070. If current protected areas avoid further deforestation, climate change will still reduce the suitable habitat by 62% (range: 38–83%). If ongoing deforestation continues, the suitable habitat will decline by 81% (range: 66–93%). Maintaining and enhancing the integrity of protected areas, where rates of forest loss are lower, will be essential for ensuring persistence of the diversity of the rapidly diminishing Malagasy rainforests.