Original Article

Heredity (2016) 116, 167–176; doi:10.1038/hdy.2015.82; published online 16 September 2015

A novel landscape genetic approach demonstrates the effects of human disturbance on the Udzungwa red colobus monkey (Procolobus gordonorum)

M J Ruiz-Lopez1,8, C Barelli2,3,4,8, F Rovero2, K Hodges3, C Roos5, W E Peterman6,9 and N Ting1,7

  1. 1Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA
  2. 2Sezione di Biodiversità Tropicale, MUSE—Museo delle Scienze, Trento, Italy
  3. 3Reproductive Biology Unit, German Primate Center, Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen, Germany
  4. 4Department of Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology, Fondazione Edmund Mach, San Michele all’Adige, Trento, Italy
  5. 5Gene Bank of Primates and Primate Genetics Laboratory, German Primate Center, Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen, Germany
  6. 6Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, USA
  7. 7Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA

Correspondence: Dr W Peterman, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, 2021 Coffey Road, 210 Kottman Hall, Columbus, OH 43210, USA. E-mail: bill.peterman@gmail.com; Dr N Ting, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1218, USA. E-mail: nting@uoregon.edu

8These authors contributed equally to this work.

9Current address: School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.

Received 23 January 2015; Revised 30 July 2015; Accepted 4 August 2015
Advance online publication 16 September 2015

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Abstract

A comprehensive understanding of how human disturbance affects tropical forest ecosystems is critical for the mitigation of future losses in global biodiversity. Although many genetic studies of tropical forest fragmentation have been conducted to provide insight into this issue, relatively few have incorporated landscape data to explicitly test the effects of human disturbance on genetic differentiation among populations. In this study, we use a newly developed landscape genetic approach that relies on a genetic algorithm to simultaneously optimize resistance surfaces to investigate the effects of human disturbance in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania, which is an important part of a universally recognized biodiversity hotspot. Our study species is the endangered Udzungwa red colobus monkey (Procolobus gordonorum), which is endemic to the Udzungwa Mountains and a known indicator species that thrives in large and well-protected blocks of old growth forest. Population genetic analyses identified significant population structure among Udzungwa red colobus inhabiting different forest blocks, and Bayesian cluster analyses identified hierarchical structure. Our new method for creating composite landscape resistance models found that the combination of fire density on the landscape and distance to the nearest village best explains the genetic structure observed. 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. Our study also illustrates the ability of our novel landscape genetic method to detect the impacts of relatively recent landscape features on a long-lived species.