Predicting suitable habitat for the critically endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda) in Perú
Zarate, Melissa Ann
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The Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot holds a remarkable amount of species at risk of extinction due to climate change and human activities. One of these species, the Critically Endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda), has experienced alterations in its known geographical range, along with a recent sighting in the region Junín, 206 kilometers south of previous observations, calling for a re-evaluation of potential suitable habitat. In this thesis, I fit, evaluate, and apply predictions of a habitat suitability model within the country of Peru. I used a generalized linear modeling approach across various range constraints, incorporating bioclimatic variables, forest cover, distance to cities and elevation as predictor variables. Precipitation features most strongly influencing observations of species presence in my model and evaluation measures showed the elevation-constrained model accuracy to be around 95%. Habitat suitability maps illustrate novel areas of potentially suitable habitat in central Huánuco, Pasco, and limited areas in Junín. The newly discovered population was found to be in an area of low suitability, calling for further investigation of the species in this area. Areas of suitable habitat should be surveyed to decrease bias in occurrence data, increasing the accuracy of habitat modeling for this species. Surveying these areas may also reveal corridors of gene flow between these populations, and could facilitate landscape genetics studies to characterize the viability of this taxon. Better characterization of the true distribution of the species will provide information to conservation stakeholders in priority areas, helping to protect this species and associated threatened wildlife.