Assessing Potential Phenological Shifts in Relation to Western Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) Habitat Quality
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The exact ways that climate change impacts primate reproduction and survival are still being understood and investigated. As foraging and nesting are two well documented and integral parts of primate survival, using feeding and nesting trees to understand climate change is a measurable way to infer changes in potential survival success. Looking at a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) community at Fongoli, Senegal, which already experiences heat stress and anthropogenic disturbance, how would climate change further impact habitat quality using feeding and nesting trees as an indicator? Previous research of the Fongoli chimpanzees shows that behavioral adaptations, including cave use and a shifted activity budget that focuses on more nocturnal movement, have allowed the chimpanzees to adjust to life in an extremely hot environment (Wessling et al. 2018). As chimpanzees are ripe fruit specialists and are impacted by fruit seasonality, how would fruit phenological stages be impacted by climate change? Using a longitudinal record of phenological data collected from 2006 to 2020 at the Fongoli, Senegal study site, I compared the availability of several phenology stages (e.g., fruit, leaves) over time. Incorporating variables such as the maximum, minimum and mean temperature in addition to mean precipitation, I addressed how phenological shifts, or the delay of phenological stages, might impact chimpanzee habitat quality. Based on Chi Square Test results, there were significant similarities between 2006 and 2020 for ripe fruit availability during the wet season; there was a significant similarity in new leaf availability between 2006 and 2020 during the dry season, and a significant association in flower availability between 2006 and 2010 during the dry season. For environmental data, a One Sample t Test was conducted for both precipitation and temperature; only 2007 deviated from the mean precipitation test value. Mean temperature yielded no statistically significant differences between years from 2006 to 2018, with the highest mean temperature being 31.98°C; maximum temperature yielded 2016 as being statistically different from the mean test score of 32.27°C, with no significant minimum temperature differences. The phenological and environmental data suggest that, while climate change is due to impact chimpanzee habitat quality, phenological shifts are not actively happening at Fongoli to the extent that the obtained data can show.