Research ArticleAPPLIED ECOLOGY

Road development in Asia: Assessing the range-wide risks to tigers

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Science Advances  29 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 18, eaaz9619
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz9619

Abstract

Roads are proliferating worldwide at an unprecedented rate, with potentially severe impacts on wildlife. We calculated the extent and potential impacts of road networks across the 1,160,000-km2, 13-country range of the globally endangered tiger (Panthera tigris)—a conservation umbrella species. We found that roads were pervasive, totaling 134,000 km across tiger conservation landscapes (TCLs), even in tiger priority sites and protected areas. Approximately 43% of the area where tiger breeding occurs and 57% of the area in TCLs fell within the road-effect zone. Consequently, current road networks may be decreasing tiger and prey abundances by more than 20%. Nearly 24,000 km of new roads will be built in TCLs by 2050, stimulated through major investment projects such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Given that roads will be a pervasive challenge to tiger recovery in the future, we urge decision-makers to make sustainable road development a top priority.

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