Freire-Filho, R. & Palmeirim, J.M. (2019) Potential distribution and priority conservation areas for the endangered Caatinga Howler Monkey Alouatta ululata, Northeastern Brazil.Oryx, Online early, 1-9. DOI:10.1017/S0030605318001084 (IF2019 2,199; Q2 Biodiversity Conservation)
The Caatinga of north-eastern Brazil is the largest and most diverse seasonally dry tropical forest in the Americas and is home to numerous endemic species. However, only 1.2% of the area is under full protection, and given the ongoing decline of this biome there is an urgent need to expand the protected area network. The Endangered Caatinga howler monkey Alouatta ululata is almost endemic to the Caatinga, and is a potential umbrella species for the protection of its biodiversity. Using all available distribution data and our own surveys we applied Maxent and Zonation spatial modelling to identify the range of A. ululata, and priority conservation areas for the species, maximizing habitat quality and connectivity, and minimizing conservation constraints. The top 10% priority areas cover 34,400 km2 and mostly coincide with good remnants of Caatinga. Only priority areas in the northern part of the species’ range are protected, so it is essential to create new protected areas in the centre and south of the range. Maxent modelling indicates that the species depends on good tree cover, but even inside protected areas we observed recent deforestation, illustrating the urgency to improve management. Maxent also indicated that aridity limits the species' range, and therefore the ongoing aridification of the Caatinga is a threat to its future. The protection of A. ululata requires establishing new protected areas in priority locations and improving management of existing protected areas. Preservation of priority areas for the Caatinga howler monkey also represents an opportunity for the conservation of other important biodiversity in the region.