Research ArticleCONSERVATION BIOLOGY

Tracking changes and preventing loss in critical tiger habitat

Science Advances  01 Apr 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 4, e1501675
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501675

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Abstract

The global population of wild tigers remains dangerously low at fewer than 3500 individuals. Habitat loss, along with poaching, can undermine the international target recovery of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022. Using a new satellite-based monitoring system, we analyzed 14 years of forest loss data within the 76 landscapes (ranging from 278 to 269,983 km2) that have been prioritized for conservation of wild tigers. Our analysis provides an update of the status of tiger habitat and describes new applications of technology to detect precisely where forest loss is occurring in order to curb future habitat loss. Across the 76 landscapes, forest loss was far less than anticipated (79,597 ± 22,629 km2, 7.7% of remaining habitat) over the 14-year study period (2001–2014). Habitat loss was unevenly distributed within a subset of 29 landscapes deemed most critical for doubling wild tiger populations: 19 showed little change (1.5%), whereas 10 accounted for more than 98% (57,392 ± 16,316 km2) of habitat loss. Habitat loss in source population sites within 76 landscapes ranged from no loss to 435 ± 124 km2 (Embedded Image, SD = 89, total = 1676 ± 476 km2). Doubling the tiger population by 2022 requires moving beyond tracking annual changes in habitat. We highlight near–real-time forest monitoring technologies that provide alerts of forest loss at relevant spatial and temporal scales to prevent further erosion.

Keywords
  • forest loss
  • habitat monitoring
  • spatial analysis
  • tigers
  • tiger conservation landscapes
  • Remote Sensing
  • GIS
  • global forest watch
  • global forest change
  • FORMA alerts.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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