Urbanization may hold key to tiger survival

Urbanization may hold key to tiger survival
A first-of-its-kind analysis overlays human population scenarios with the fate of tigers. Credit: TSFD/WCS-India/HyTiCoS

A new WCS-led study published in the journal Biological Conservation says the future of tigers in Asia is linked the path of demographic transition—for humans. The study marks the first-of-its-kind analysis that overlays human population scenarios with the fate of these endangered big cats.

Prior to the 20th century, some experts estimate there were more than 100,000 tigers living in the wild; today that number is between 3000—4000. At the same, over the last 150 years, the human population of Asia as grown from 790 million to over 4 billion, with dire consequences for tigers and other wildlife.

But these trends are changing. The is the process by which human populations peak and then go down. The researchers looked at different scenarios of economic, education, migration, and urbanization policy. In 2010, 57 million people lived in areas defined as " conservation landscapes" that contained all of the world's remaining wild tigers. However, by 2100, depending on population trends, as few as 40 million people could be sharing space with tigers, or it could be as many as 106 million.

Different population scenarios depend on the course of the demographic transition. Over the long-term, the scenarios associated with the lowest human populations are also associated with the greatest levels of urbanization and education. At the same time, urban consumption is the source of many of the threats to tigers. Therefore, the authors say conservation authorities must engage with people in cities to save tigers, while continuing to support site-level protection efforts around tiger source sites.

Said lead author Eric Sanderson, Senior Conservation Ecologist with WCS: "Urbanization and the subsequent human demographic transition is arguably the most important historical trend shaping the future of conservation. How that transition plays out is not pre-determined. Rather it depends on the that governments, and the societies they represent, take with respect to fundamental matters such as urban governance, education, economic reform, and the movement of people and trade goods. These decisions matter for us and tigers too."

Said co-author and WCS Senior Vice President of Field Conservation Joe Walston: "If we want a world with tigers, forests, and wildness to persist beyond the 21st century, conservation needs to join forces with groups working to alleviate poverty, enhance education for girls, reduce meat consumption, and build sustainable cities."

Said co-author Professor Bryan Jones of Baruch College: "Demographic futures, and the socioeconomic causes and consequences thereof, are notoriously difficult to predict. As such, biophysical futures are similarly fraught with uncertainty. Understanding the consequences of different pathways, driven in large part by policy decisions, is crucial to developing a conservation strategy to protect the planets most endangered habitats. Our ability to understand the future will depend in part on how well we understand urbanization, in terms of both land use and demographic behavior."

The paper builds on a 2018 WCS study that found that the enormous trends toward population stabilization, poverty alleviation, and urbanization are rewriting the future of biodiversity in the 21st century, offering new hope for the world's wildlife and wild places.

Explore further

Landmark paper finds light at end of the tunnel for world's wildlife and wild places

More information: Eric W. Sanderson et al, Implications of the shared socioeconomic pathways for tiger (Panthera tigris) conservation, Biological Conservation (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.12.017
Journal information: Biological Conservation

Citation: Urbanization may hold key to tiger survival (2019, January 16) retrieved 27 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-01-urbanization-key-tiger-survival.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jan 16, 2019
There you have it, farmers. Now it is not enough for you to not kill tigers. Now you gotta put yourself out of existence too..... IF.....you happen to have the bad luck to been dealt a life in ... the present range of tigers in the wild. That includes a number of nations that would be 'bad Karma'...to mention by name. So all you fellas and gals and kids better git yer' derrieres to the nearest enourmous steeiiinkin' slum and wait for death so the tiggers can live. You know, the ones that you helped the government protect...you did...so now you get what is coming to you...miserable existence,....then death.

I have seeeen those slums and would not even live there at gunpoint. These are places that even the dead have some kind of work. Indian workers tie their kids to the hands of the dead so they 'can now go to work and know some zombie is watching them; so the kids can go home after being 'picked up from the sitter... calling: brains....brains....brains..I gotta s...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more