Carvalho, J.S., Meyer, C.F.J., Vicente, L. & Marques, T.A. (2015) Where to nest? Ecological determinants of chimpanzee nest abundance and distribution at the habitat and tree species scale.American Journal of Primatology, 77, 186-199. DOI:10.1002/ajp.22321 (IF2015 2,103; Q1 Zoology)
Conversion of forests to anthropogenic land-uses increasingly subjects chimpanzee populations to habitat changes and concomitant alterations in the plant resources available to them for nesting and feeding. Based on nest count surveys conducted during the dry season, we investigated nest tree species selection and the effect of vegetation attributes on nest abundance of the western chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes verus, at Lagoas de Cufada Natural Park (LCNP), Guinea-Bissau, a forest-savannah mosaic widely disturbed by humans. Further, we assessed patterns of nest height distribution to determine support for the anti-predator hypothesis. A zero-altered generalized linear mixed model showed that nest abundance was negatively related to floristic diversity (exponential form of the Shannon index) and positively with the availability of smaller-sized trees, reflecting characteristics of dense-canopy forest. A positive correlation between nest abundance and floristic richness (number of plant species) and composition indicated that species-rich open habitats are also important in nest site selection. Restricting this analysis to feeding trees, nest abundance was again positively associated with the availability of smaller-sized trees, further supporting the preference for nesting in food tree species from dense forest. Nest tree species selection was non-random, and oil palms were used at a much lower proportion (10%) than previously reported from other study sites in forest-savannah mosaics. While this study suggests that human disturbance may underlie the exclusive arboreal nesting at LCNP, better quantitative data are needed to determine to what extent the construction of elevated nests is in fact a response to predators able to climb trees. Given the importance of LCNP as refuge for Pan t. verus our findings can improve conservation decisions for the management of this important umbrella species as well as its remaining suitable habitats.