Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Habitat Research Methods Give a New Peek at Tiger Life

Oct. 18, 2013 — From a tiger's point of view, yesterday's thoughtful conservation plans might be today's reason to branch out. An international team of researchers has found a useful way to better understand the tiger's take on policy.

Twelve years ago, a team led by Jianguo "Jack" Liu at Michigan State University (MSU) showed that China needed to revisit how it was protecting its pandas. Now research on tiger habitat in Nepal, published this week's Ecosphere journal of the Ecological Society of America, again shows that conservation demands not only good policy, but monitoring even years down the road.

"Understanding long-term outcomes of conservation programs is crucial and requires innovative methods," Liu said. "Now we're learning that Nepal's outstanding efforts to protect tigers are best supported with close monitoring because conservation situations are so dynamic. In both cases, the key is to understand how the people who live near the valued wildlife are faring as well."

Neil Carter, who recently received a doctoral degree from MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, follows up on trailblazing research of Liu, his adviser.

Carter has spent years studying endangered tigers in Chitwan National Park in Nepal's Himalayan lowlands. The park, established in 1973 to protect both the tigers and the area's biodiversity, was not without cost to the people who live around the area. Those residents depend on the same forests for wood for fuel and building and grasses to thatch roofs and feed their livestock, and the policies that govern it are top-down, with little input from residents.

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