Research Press Release

Conservation: Protecting tigers in India benefits carbon storage

Nature Ecology & Evolution

May 26, 2023

Enhanced protection of Indian forests for tiger conservation may have led to over 1 million metric tons of avoided carbon emissions as a result of averted forest loss, according to a paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The highest proportion of the world’s wild tigers (Panthera tigris) live in India. Since its establishment in 2005, the Indian National Tiger Conservation Authority has designated 52 locations across the country as tiger reserves. These sites were already protected areas, but their designation as tiger reserves resulted in enhanced monitoring and enforcement of forest protection. The tiger reserves must prepare a conservation plan that regulates forest product extraction, reduces deforestation drivers, and encourages sustainable livelihoods for communities within the reserves.

Aakash Lamba and colleagues compared rates of deforestation in tiger reserves to protected areas without this additional protection. Controlling for other drivers of forest loss, including human disturbance, poverty indices and geographical and climate variables, the authors calculate that there was significantly less deforestation than would have occurred without the enhanced protection in 11 of 45 studied tiger reserves. They suggest this amounted to 5,802 hectares of net averted forest loss from 2007 to 2020, which corresponds to net avoided carbon emissions of about 1.08 million metric tons. The authors suggest this avoided deforestation could be worth around US $6.24 million in carbon offsets and could represent US $92 million in ecosystem services, from the avoided social cost of emissions in India.

The authors suggest that their findings provide an example of how, with effective monitoring and management, protected areas can benefit both species conservation and climate targets.


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