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Coquerel's Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli): A Starring Role in the Drama of Deforestation in Northwestern Madagascar

Madagascar, renowned for its unique biodiversity and diverse ecosystems, faces increasing threats to its wildlife, including lemurs. Lemurs are ideal ambassadors for habitat preservation and restoration in Madagascar since they are charismatic primates reliant on healthy forests to thrive. They are a highly diverse taxonomic group (>100 species) and at the same time the most threatened group of mammals with about 94% of all assessed species being categorized as either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. This research aims to examine the potential impacts of climate change and human-induced factors on the distribution of Propithecus coquereli in northwestern Madagascar. Employing species distribution modeling (SDM) techniques, I analyzed a comprehensive dataset comprising various environmental variables, including geology, climate, topography, and forest cover. Our bibliometric analysis chapter complements the research by providing an in-depth examination of the existing scientific literature on the subject. Through a systematic review and quantitative analysis of peer-reviewed publications, I assess the breadth and depth of research pertaining to P. coquereli's habitat, behavior, conservation, and factors affecting its distribution. The results from the SDM underscore the critical significance of forested habitats in shaping the suitability of environments for P. coquereli. The species demonstrates a strong association with the highly fragmented western tropophilous forest, relying on these patches during its movements through the expanding savannah and xerophytic bush. Alarmingly, our projections indicate a significant decline in suitable habitat for P. coquereli, with potential extinction anticipated even before 2050. The findings from the deforestation chapter complement the species distribution modeling, revealing the detrimental effects of deforestation on the availability of suitable habitats for P. coquereli. The loss of forested areas poses a severe threat to the species, particularly in the already fragmented northwestern dry forest region. As this chapter underscores, deforestation is a significant driver of habitat loss, exacerbating the challenges faced by P. coquereli's survival and contributing to the decline in its distribution range. Together, the deforestation chapter and species distribution modeling offer a comprehensive understanding of the complex interplay between climate change, human activities, and habitat loss on P. coquereli's distribution. These combined insights provide a robust foundation for formulating conservation strategies that can effectively address the challenges posed by deforestation and contribute to the preservation of this critically endangered lemur species and the unique biodiversity of Madagascar. In light of the anticipated habitat loss, identifying potential climate change refugia for P. coquereli remains crucial. Corridors that facilitate the expansion of the species' range could aid in adapting to changing environmental conditions and maintaining larger populations. Conservation strategies must urgently address the vulnerability of this endemic species to climate change and habitat loss. A comprehensive approach involving ecological preservation, sustainable resource management, and community engagement is essential for safeguarding Madagascar's rich biodiversity. Nevertheless, as we explore the implications of our findings, it is crucial to exercise caution and not overstate the reach of our results. This research serves as a foundation for future studies and conservation efforts, focusing on the survival and protection of P. coquereli and other endangered species in Madagascar's dynamic and fragile ecosystems. In conclusion, this study combines cutting-edge species distribution modeling with a comprehensive bibliometric analysis, shedding light on the urgent need for targeted conservation strategies. With Madagascar's ecosystems far from equilibrium and the loss of biodiversity already evident, concerted efforts from the global scientific community, policymakers, and local stakeholders are indispensable to protect the invaluable natural heritage of the island.
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