Modelling habitat suitability for a potential flagship species, the hooded capuchin, of the Paraguayan Upper Paraná Atlantic forest.
The hooded capuchin (Sapajus cay) is an adaptable, generalist primate species found throughout eastern Paraguay with preferences for the Paraguayan Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest (BAAPA). BAAPA is one of the world's most critically endangered terrestrial habitats with more than 90% of its original cover lost to industrial agriculture. Given its charismatic characteristics, the capuchin species is a candidate flagship species for this ecoregion; however, its habitat preferences in BAAPA degraded fragments are unknown. We develop a species distribution model using MAXENT to determine the remotely sensed microhabitat features associated with habitat suitability in forests that had experienced different levels of degradation. The model was fitted to presence-only observations at two sites, Rancho Laguna Blanca and Nueva Gambach, to determine how hooded capuchin distribution is associated with remotely sensed habitat features in BAAPA fragments. Wetness (mean and standard deviation), a measure of soil moisture and canopy closure, was found to be the most important driver at both sites. The capuchins showed a preference for more mature forest, bamboo dominated forest and flooded forest (that has experienced little selective logging in the past). The capuchin was a forest obligate species and avoided crop fields. The monkeys were less likely to be found in degraded areas, even though they were still forested. As Paraguayan deforestation involves the creation of large crop fields separating BAAPA fragments, the probability that the hooded capuchin can move between those fragments is low. The hooded capuchin is a candidate flagship species for an agroforestry reforestation programme to reconnect BAAPA fragments. We propose that combining native tree corridors with shade grown yerba mate and slash pine plantations would create habitat for the capuchin and other wildlife while helping to alleviate poverty in the area and the pressure that this causes on the forests' natural resources.