From today’s Guardian in the Environment section, some welcome news on one of our most posted-on topics:
Satellite maps show tiger habitat is being lost but still adequate for meeting international goal of doubling tiger numbers by 2022
Forests that harbour tigers are being lost but are still large enough to take double the world’s tiger population in the next six years, according to a study using new satellite mapping technology.
But the internationally agreed goal can only be achieved if no further habitat across Asia is lost and if the “corridors” that connect tiger populations are protected, researchers warn in the paper, published on Friday in the journalScience Advances.
The tiger is the most endangered big cat, with as few as 3,200 left in the wild in the forests, swamps and jungles of 13 Asian countries. Logging, agricultural expansion and infrastructure development have all cut their habitat and they are also under severe pressure from hunting and poaching for their body parts, which are used in traditional Asian pseudo-medicine.
By 2010 the rate of loss was so great that a high-level summit was convened in Russia, where tiger nations agreed on a goal called Tx2 to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022.
Since the meeting, Nepal and India have reported an increase in tiger populations,Amur tiger numbers are rising in Russia and there are indications that tigers are settling and breeding in north-eastern China. Later in April, India will host a ministerial conference where countries will report on their progress.
The new analysis, led by Anup Joshi at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, in the US, shows that despite an overall decline in habitat between 2001 and 2014, enough wild habitat remains to meet the goal.
The researchers used Google Earth Engine’s cloud computing platform to process huge amounts of high-resolution, real-time satellite imagery and 14 years of forest loss data from Global Forest Watch. This allowed them to calculate changes in tiger habitat to the level of detail of 30m in a single wildlife corridor and at a wider scale across 76 landscapes that have been prioritised for the conservation of wild tigers.
Previously, Joshi said, monitoring tiger habitat could only be done once a decade because of limited access and expertise in satellite monitoring technology. Using the new technology, conservationists can pinpoint exactly where habitat loss is occurring and potentially curb future losses…