Vyāghranomics in Space and Time:Estimating Habitat Threats for Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan and Sumatran Tigers Susmita Dasgupta, Dan Hammer, Robin Kraft, David Wheeler The World Bank 2012
Endangered Tigers The wild tiger population of tropical Asia plummeted in the last century, from about 100,000 to 3,500. Bali, Javan and South China subspecies are believed to be extinct in the wild. An estimated 2,380 Bengal tigers survive, along with 340 Indochinese, 500 Malayan and 325 Sumatran tigers.
Research FocusThis research focuseson forest habitat loss,but we recognize thatpoaching and illegaltrade in tiger parts candevastate remainingtiger populations,even when foresthabitat is intact.
Tiger Habitats Tiger Subspecies LandscapesTiger habitats withered significantlyover time.Remaining habitat forms a scatteredarc from southwest India to northwestIndonesia, much of it in upland areas.Long term survival of the tiger isdependent on conservation of tigerhabitats.Habitat conservation is primarily a development problem. Success of conservationinitiatives will require program designs tailored to the economic dynamics of forestclearing in tropical forest countries.
Economic Dynamics of Forest Habitat LossThis research links forest habitatloss and forest clearing toprofitability calculations that areaffected by market expectations,environmental conditionsevolving patterns of settlement,economic activity, infrastructureprovision and regulatory activity -following previous empiricalresearch on conversion offorested land.
Data High-resolution monthly data on forest clearing for 74 tiger habitat areas in 10 countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesian Sumatra, Lao PDR, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam were used to investigate habitat threats for Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan and Sumatran tigers. Forest clearing information was from FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action), a satellite-based system.
Estimation Forest clearing data was gridded to 100 km2 – typical area to support survival and breeding of tigers for econometric analysis Determinants of forest clearing included Cost of Land, Expected Revenue from Production on Cleared Land, Distance from Markets, Quality of Transport Infrastructure, Cost of Capital, Agricultural Input Price, Population Density, Topography, Precipitation, Soil Quality and Forest Protection Measures For each country, the model was estimated using new spatial panel estimation methods that allow for temporal and spatial autocorrelation.
Econometric Findings Over time, the spread of clearing into new or contiguous areas is reducing the number of 100 km2 forest blocks that can support breeding tigers. Current clearing activity is significantly related to past forest clearing in 2000- 2005. Clearing increases with increase in the opportunity cost of forested land. Clearing is greater in areas that are relatively remote from major transport links. Over time, clearing is positively related to the expected prices of forest products and expected future exchange rates (denominated in local currencies/dollar). Clearing is negatively related to rainfall, real interest rate, and to the elevation of the terrain. After controlling for all these, significant unexplained drivers remain.
Difference across Countries A negative trend in forest clearing is more pronounced in Bangladesh, India, Nepal - Bengal tiger countries, and less pronounced in Indonesian Sumatra, Cambodia and Vietnam. Trend clearing is positive and highly significant in Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar and Lao PDR. In the export-oriented economies of Indonesia and Malaysia, the habitat countries of Sumatran and Malayan tigers, forest clearing is highly sensitive to changes in exchange rates, real interest rates and the prices of forest products. In contrast, sensitivity to these variables is lower in India, Bangladesh and Nepal -- habitat countries of the Bengal tiger. Responsiveness to agricultural product prices varies across fivefold across countries. Protected Areas have no measured effects in the Sumatran and Malayan habitat countries in general. Protected Areas have significant effects in the habitat countries of Bengal tigers.
Critical Message Changes in world forest product markets and national financial policies have significant, measurable effects on tropical forest clearing, but with variable time lags and differing degrees of responsiveness across countries. Measuring these effects and pinpointing areas at high risk can provide valuable guidance for policymakers, conservation managers, and donor institutions about the challenges to be overcome in offsetting incentives for forest clearing, and about potential responses tailored to the circumstances of different countries and habitat areas.
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