Living in small spaces: Forest fragment characterization and its use by Philippine tarsiers (Tarsius syrichta Linnaeus, 1758)
Bejar, S. G. F., Duya, M. R. M., Duya, M. V., Galindon, J. M. M., Pasion, B. O., & Ong, P. S.
The Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) is a charismatic species that is threatened by illegal hunting and deforestation. Although they occur in forest and disturbed habitats, ecological information about them is still considerably lacking, which consequently hampers our ability to effectively protect tarsiers from further endangerment. Here, we characterized a 36-ha forest fragment in Mindanao Island where a population of tarsiers persist, and assessed the factors that could have influenced their distribution within the area. We sampled trees (> 1 cm DBH) within 10 × 10-m sampling plots (N = 54), which were established within 1-ha grids (N = 32) and locations where tarsiers were captured (N = 22). The habitat was characterized as a regenerating forest over limestone, with a generally homogeneous structure in terms of tree species richness, abundance, mean DBH, and height. In both sampling plots, we found an abundance of trees below 5 cm in DBH (> 50%) and between 2.6 and 5 m in height (> 40%), which, accordingly, the tarsiers appeared to prefer to use when foraging or sleeping. Lianas were among the most important features of the forest, possibly being a keystone structure in such habitats. Community assemblage, species richness, and mean height of trees, as well as distance to the forest edge, were found to be significant factors that influenced tarsier distribution in the fragment. Our study provides basic yet critical information on the habitat and ecology of Philippine tarsiers in Mindanao, and highlights the importance of forest fragments with rich flora diversity to the survival of the species.