India’s tiger conservation programs contribute to combating global warming by reducing deforestation and thus enhancing natural carbon storage, a study notes.
India’s tiger conservation programs contribute to combating global warming by reducing deforestation and thus enhancing natural carbon storage, notes a study published Thursday.
India is home to three-quarters of wild tigers, which are an endangered species worldwide. The destruction of the natural environment of these animals due to urban expansion and deforestation led to a significant decline in their numbers, as about 40,000 of them (including the Bengal tiger) were scattered in the forests of India upon its independence in 1947, but their number decreased to 1,500 in 2006 before it rose again. to more than three thousand in 2023, according to the latest official census.
The Indian Tiger Protection Authority has taken the initiative to reduce deterioration by allocating 52 natural reserves for these animals. These enhanced protection sites are required to regulate logging, reduce deforestation and provide alternative livelihoods for the populations living in close proximity to these carnivores.
Protecting wildlife means reducing carbon emissions.
Akash Lamba, the lead author of the study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, a researcher at the University of Singapore, told AFP that tigers, which are the largest cats, have a very important advantage, which is the fact that their vital area is very wide. “By protecting them, we simultaneously protect forests and their great diversity of wildlife,” he added.
It is known that the forest system represents one of the main natural carbon basins on the planet, as it traps carbon dioxide in trees and soil, and thus preserving it is an essential tool in combating climate warming, especially since the giant South Asian country is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. the world, pledged to reduce its carbon emissions.
Akash Lamba, who grew up in India, stresses that solving the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are two separate issues. This is what prompted him to seek “compelling evidence” of a link between wildlife protection and carbon emissions.
With his team from the Universities of Singapore and Princeton (United States), he resorted to a method called “synthetic control”, which is used in the field of statistics to measure the impact of public policies. less stringent protection.
It was found that the total areas included in the study (162) lost between 2001 and 2020 more than 61 thousand hectares of forests. More than 75 percent of these deforestation operations were witnessed in areas without specific protection, such as the Kotgarh sanctuary (eastern India), which alone lost more than nine thousand hectares.
In contrast, 45 tiger reserves experienced much less deforestation, as the loss of about 6,000 hectares was avoided, equivalent to avoiding one million tons of carbon dioxide.
This trend seems more evident in the reserves of central India, which are considered very “effective” in this field. The study referred, for example, to the Nawigayon-Nagzira Reserve, which created an “environmental connection” between patches of forest, through corridors that facilitate the movements of different groups of tigers. Lamba explained that this plan is “critical in that it allows for the genetic mixing that ensures the long-term survival of the species.”
Lamba highlighted the contribution of these policies to India’s economy, which is severely affected by the consequences of climate change, especially in the agricultural sector. The study indicated that the “social cost” of carbon amounts to $86 per ton emitted, indicating that avoiding emissions provides a “saving” of $92 million.
In terms of carbon credit, that represents $6 million, a quarter of the annual budget for tiger conservation.
The researcher saw this as evidence that “investments in biodiversity protection not only preserve ecosystems and wildlife, but also benefit society.”
His conclusions align with a study published in March in Nature Climate Change showing that protecting or restoring a range of wild species around the world (whales, wolves, otters, etc.) could facilitate the uptake of 6.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. Thus, this is an important element in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.