While the tiger population in the wild has not declined to a point of concern, there are many threats that could impact its survival. One of these is climate change. Another is the impact of roads on its habitat. Additionally, there are conservation and legislative efforts in the United States.
Genetic diversity of small populations could fall within a century
A new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Centre for Biological Sciences shows that the genetic diversity of small tiger populations in India could be reduced within a century. Genetic bottlenecks can cause a population to become isolated and at risk from natural and human events.
The bottleneck can be a result of habitat loss, human activity, environmental events, or a combination of all three. If the genetic diversity of a species is low, the resilience of the individual can also be low. This can lead to inbreeding depression.
While tigers were once found throughout Asia, they have been increasingly isolated in smaller reserves. Inbreeding can lead to disease and reduced fertility. Tigers can also avoid humans, which can put them at risk.
Scientists are working on a number of strategies to protect tigers. One such strategy is to create wildlife corridors that can help connect genetically close populations. These pathways are important because they can encourage the flow of genes. Another is to introduce tigers from other areas.
Currently, there are 1,033 tigers in central India. They are distributed over eight states. There are 19 tiger reserves in this region.
The Central Indian tigers show a high level of genetic variation. This diversity should help them adapt to their environment. However, some researchers worry that adding too many tigers may dilute their genetic adaptations to the local environment.
Genetic diversity also helps tigers to better cope with drought. This is important because the climate in central India is changing rapidly. As forests are fragmenting, there is a greater risk of tigers becoming isolated.
Genetic bottlenecks can be devastating for big cat species, and in some cases they can even cause extinction. These events are common, but it is important to find solutions to prevent them.
Threats from climate change
The world’s top predator, the tiger, is threatened by a variety of factors. The biggest threat is the reduction of its habitat. This can lead to conflicts with human communities.
Humans have made use of land for agriculture, leading to wide-open spaces and the vanishing of much of the wild grasslands. These areas, however, are important to tigers. Without them, the animals would starve.
Climate change is increasing the frequency of storm surges and flooding. It is also shrinking the number of forests. In some areas, such as the Sundarbans, which is shared by India and Bangladesh, the majority of land is below sea level.
Increased temperature and salinity in the region’s water are causing the trees to grow slower. These changes have made it more difficult for the tiger to find its food. They are now turning to livestock as a source of food. Farmers have responded by retaliating against the animals.
Poaching is another major threat to the tiger. The illegal trade of animal parts has reduced the global tiger population by about 97% over the past century.
However, climate change may have even more damaging effects. Increasing sea levels, which could wipe out the country’s remaining tiger habitat, are predicted to happen by 2070. Changing vegetation will further degrade tiger habitat.
Several tiger recovery areas have been identified as critical carbon sinks. Protecting them would generate significant ecological benefits and would also contribute to global climate change mitigation goals.
Although tigers have been around for centuries, their habitat has been drastically diminished. The tiger is one of many species that require large tracts of open space to survive. Deforestation has sucked up huge amounts of land, leaving the planet vulnerable to extreme weather events and other threats.
Impact of roads on tiger habitats
In 2014, more than half of global tiger habitat was heavily impacted by roads. These effects include reduced prey abundance, increased human-wildlife conflict and fragmentation of tiger populations. The results indicate a significant threat to tiger survival.
Roads are also a common means of illegal hunting. For example, in southern India, six Amur tigers were killed over a 10-year period along one road. Tigers also face significant risks from vehicular collisions in the Far East region of Russia.
Currently, over 134,000 kilometers of roads exist in Asia’s Tiger Conservation Landscapes (TCL). There are plans to build nearly 24,000 kilometers of new roadways by 2050.
According to the study, these new roadways will likely travel through diverse tiger habitats. They also raise the likelihood of accidents and fires. Therefore, the rapid expansion of these roadways threatens the conservation of forest apex predators and other threatened species.
The study’s findings suggest that existing road networks may already be reducing tiger populations by 20 percent. To mitigate these effects, funding agencies should mandate impact assessments on road projects. Governments should also take steps to keep new infrastructure away from tiger populations and corridors.
This study used recently developed data on the world’s road network to quantify the effects of these roadways on tiger habitats. It included reports on the construction of roads as well as estimates of their density.
Using the metrics, the study estimated the number of mammals, birds and other species that live within five km of the nearest road. These areas are called the road-effect zone. Typically, road-effect zones increase poaching, human-wildlife conflict and decrease the abundance of prey.
A broader assessment of road impacts could be undertaken using cell-by-cell estimates of the MSA. This information can help improve future road planning and reduce the total impact of roads.
Habitat monitoring limited to decadal intervals
The Global Tiger Initiative is an international program aimed at accelerating conservation efforts to tiger populations. In 2008, it was hosted by the World Bank and continues today under the World Resources Institute. Its purpose is to double the wild tiger population by 2022.
Historically, Asian countries have experienced a high rate of deforestation. As such, maintaining the connectivity between tigers and their prey is key to effective tiger conservation.
A variety of monitoring tools are available, including Global Forest Watch, which provides an annual update on forest cover change. Combined with spatial analysis, the information can help us understand the state of our tiger landscapes.
Habitat monitoring limited to decadal intervals is one way to do this. This can be done using remotely sensed data, which can provide insight into the changing nature of forests. These changes are crucial to assessing tiger populations and habitats. With minimal investment, such habitat monitoring can be achieved.
There is no clear answer to whether tiger population growth has outstripped habitat loss. However, in several range states, population recovery is underway.
Monitoring changes in forest cover through tools such as FORMA alerts can keep track of large-scale tree cover loss in real time. Similarly, ground surveys can detect the presence of disturbances underneath the forest canopy.
Using these tools and other technologies, we can evaluate the effectiveness of our conservation strategies. For instance, it is possible to calculate tiger population densities, which can indicate whether conservation actions have succeeded in preserving or reducing tiger populations.
Although tiger population numbers are declining, they are still increasing in some locales. In some landscapes, doubling the tiger population could be achievable by 2022.
Conservation legislation in the US
The US has had an enormous contribution to the conservation of the tiger population through the African Elephant Conservation Act and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act. These acts provide financial and technical support to a range of national and international conservation programs.
Despite threats to the tiger, the species is rebounding. It’s total number in the wild has dropped from 100,000 to 3,200 in the past century, a decline attributed to poaching and retaliatory killings.
International commerce in tigers is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This legislation was modeled after the African Elephant Conservation Act.
Under CITES, all subspecies of tigers have been listed on Appendix I since 1987. The principal consumers of tigers have banned trade after strong pressure from the U.S. CITES has also organized a two-week training seminar for wildlife enforcement officials from 12 tiger-range states.
Although tigers have adequate legal protection on paper, poaching has increased and wildlife trafficking is a growing concern. CITES has adopted several resolutions to control tiger trade.
A task force, coordinated by the Department of Interior, is responsible for coordinating a broad range of government approaches to conservation. It has identified a need for more action in North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
One of the most important components of tiger conservation is anti-poaching patrols. To combat illegal poaching, non-governmental organizations work with law enforcement officials throughout the world.
Wildlife trafficking is a threat to the global health of species and to community stability. It is also a threat to economic prosperity.
Enforcement is weak at times, in part because of a lack of local infrastructure and support. Fortunately, technologically advanced nations have been instrumental in providing forensic science and other materials to help enforce wildlife conservation laws.