Tiger numbers fine but vegetation declining in tiger reserves, warns study

Research News

Tiger numbers fine but vegetation
declining in tiger reserves, warns study

Jammu, November 01: A new study has warned that all may
not be well with tiger reserves in the country. It has found that
even while they were good at protecting animals, their vegetation condition was
far from being satisfactory. The study, which used open-source satellite data,
has reported drastic decline in vegetation, with extensive drying of forests
inside tiger reserves, thus raising question marks on their long-term

declare reserved forests as national parks or wild life sanctuaries with focus
on one or the other top animal species such as tiger or lion or elephant on the
assumption that protecting the flagship species would indirectly help protect
the ecosystem as a whole. They invest heavily in resources and financial
support to manage protected areas. Tiger reserves particularly get extra

Usually, the effectiveness of managing the protected areas is assessed
based on their successful protection of the focus species.

the new study, the researchers decided to tread a different path and sought to ascertain
their effectiveness in preserving their vegetation. They selected 25 tiger
reserves from across the country and compared the status of vegetation before
and after they were declared as protected areas.

researchers used Landsat 5 TM satellite time series data between 1984–2012 and
analyzed on the Google Earth Engine cloud computing platform to calculate
vegetation indices. Forest vegetation health is usually measured using
vegetation indices such as enhanced vegetation index and normalized difference
infrared index.

The researchers found that the vegetation had declined by more than 50% in
13 tiger reserves and by 25 per cent to 50 per cent in 8 reserves, since they
were declared as protected areas.

to India Science Wire, Dr.Krithi Karanth of the Centre for Wildlife
Studies, a member of the research team, said

evaluate how protected areas are performing by typically focusing on the
numbers of the animals living there. We need to widen the scope for how we
measure effectiveness. The finding of our study strongly argues that there is a
need to change the way in which the protected areas of the country are managed”.

whether the findings did not contradict the Indian State of Forest Report 2017,
which had reported an increase in forest cover in very dense forest followed by
open forest, the researchers said the finding of this study was not directly
comparable with that report because there was a difference between forest cover
and forest condition. Forest cover is about how much forest was there and it
was measured in terms of the area that was forested. It is more like a measure
of “quantity” or “amount” of forest. Forest vegetation
condition, in contrast, is about the health or condition of forest vegetation.
Change in vegetation condition can be due to many reasons, including planting
or selective harvest, and changes in vegetation composition due to altered
ecological process in response to global change, they said.

author, Pradeep S. Koulgi, said the findings can be considered as an eye opener
as it reveals a blind-spot in generic protected area management approach.
“Conservation and management of our protected areas can benefit from continuous
scientific and independent evaluations of multiple essential biodiversity and
habitat factors,” he said.

findings of the study have been published in Scientific Reports journal. The research team included Nicholas Clinton of Google Inc
besides Pradeep S. Koulgi, and Krithi K. Karanth.

By S Suresh Ramanan

(India Science Wire)