News Release

New study on tiger conservation efforts sheds light on additional climate benefits

Peer-Reviewed Publication

National University of Singapore

Wildlife conservation policies can not only benefit species preservation, but also provide additional climate benefits from enhanced habitat protection. This was a key finding from a new study, which was published on 26 May 2023 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution by researchers at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions (CNCS), a research centre under the NUS Faculty of Science.

The researchers had quantified the climate benefits that could be reaped from tiger conservation efforts in India by analysing the impacts of designating certain protected areas there as tiger reserves. Compared to other protected areas, tiger reserves in India receive additional resources, including enhanced funding and monitoring. This enhanced protection is given primarily to protect and increase tiger populations in India, but researchers found that it could also result in reduced deforestation and avoided carbon emissions.

In about a third of the 45 tiger reserves analysed, the deforestation rate went down after they received the additional protection, the researchers found. This amounted to over 5,802 hectares of forest – equivalent to the size of over 8,000 football pitches - being saved from the axe. The net avoided emissions resulted in carbon savings of about 1.08 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2), equivalent to taking about 200,000 cars off the road for a year.

Moreover, other than the direct carbon savings from avoided deforestation, the study showed that there were indirect benefits too. India is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, susceptible to climate impacts such as declining crop yield and extreme weather events, and previous studies have suggested that every additional tonne of carbon dioxide could inflict about USD86 in damages to India. Researchers calculated that the avoided emissions due to the enhanced protection translated into USD93 million of avoided costs.

The study’s key finding, which quantifies the additional climate benefits from initiatives aimed at protecting wild tigers, could help to unlock novel sources of funding for nature conservation. For instance, the results showed that by giving protected areas additional resources to prevent tiger numbers from declining, deforestation is avoided. There is thus the potential to raise revenue for conservation through the sale of carbon credits.

The study, led by CNCS researcher Aakash Lamba, comes as India celebrates its 50th year of tiger conservation efforts. India’s Project Tiger campaign was first rolled out in 1973 to save the Asiatic tiger from the brink of extinction.

“Recognising that biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation are two sides of the same coin is fundamental to deploying resources towards these important challenges. By quantifying the climate benefits of species protection efforts, biodiversity conservation can help to pay for itself,” said Mr Lamba, lead author of the study.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.