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Genetics research identifies Bengal tiger conservation opportunities

Date: October 20, 2017

The Bengal tiger is a flagship species of conservation world-wide and is critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. This study was the first effort to use genetic data to identify the factors that drive local population size and gene flow


Background

Predicted effective tiger population size across the Central Indian study area. Predicted effective population size ranges from 0 (dark blue) to 119 (darkest red). Protected areas are shown in dark gray polygons and area of forest in lighter gray.
Predicted effective tiger population size across the Central Indian study area. Predicted effective population size ranges from 0 (dark blue) to 119 (darkest red). Protected areas are shown in dark gray polygons and area of forest in lighter gray.

The Bengal tiger depends on large tracts of forest habitat and abundant ungulate prey populations for its survival. Forest cover and ungulate populations have been rapidly lost across its former range, which includes most of Southern and Southeast Asia. In addition, increased poaching pressure has resulted in catastrophic population declines even in areas where remaining habitat exists. The survival of this species requires improved knowledge of the factors that drive local population size and connectivity across the landscape between sub-populations. This research provided the first genetic-based predictions of local population size and gene flow. Population size is most related to the extent of protected areas and forest cover in a landscape, while gene flow is driven primarily by topographical linkages provided by rocky ridges with low human footprint that connect sub-populations. This information provides critical guidance to conservation and management efforts across the species’ range.

Key Findings

  • Tiger local population size is driven by the extent of protected areas and forest cover in the landscape.

  • Tiger gene flow and population connectivity are driven by topographical features that provide low risk and low human footprint linkages between study areas, such as rocky ridgelines.

Publications forthcoming.

Final resistance map depicting the combined effects of topographical roughness, slope position, land cover and human footprint on resistance to tiger gene flow in Central India.
Final resistance map depicting the combined effects of topographical roughness, slope position, land cover and human footprint on resistance to tiger gene flow in Central India.
 



Principal Investigators: 
Principal Investigators - External: 
P. Anuradha Reddy Co-PI - CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad India
Research Location: 
India