A lemur’s ability as seed disperser could be an important mechanism for combatting climate change
The black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata) is an endangered species whose Madagascar based population has fallen by 80% in the last three decades due to loss of habitat and hunting.
However, their large physical gape and hence their ability to swallow large tree seeds is suggesting to scientists that they may have a very important role, not just in seed dispersal, but in dispersing the seeds of the very biggest trees.
According to lemur specialist, Kara Moses, the digestive juices of this primate helps tree seeds to germinate, suggesting that the importance of lemurs is in more than dispersal. These big trees are also the ones that will absorb most carbon over their lifetime. Without the ruffed lemur, what remains of Madagascar’s forests could be transformed over time, with far fewer large trees and diminished potential for carbon sequestration and storage.
“The forest then becomes one composed mainly of trees with low carbon-storage potential, and the carbon-storage capacity of the whole forest is affected,” explained Moses. “This may have obvious global implications, with respect to climate change for example.”