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Climate Change May Wipe Out Bengal Tiger from Sunderbans, Finds New Study

The Sunderbans, in south coastal Bangladesh, are the last surviving mangrove habitat and a key stronghold for the endangered Bengal tiger.

Aniruddha Ghosal | News18.com@aniruddhg1

Updated:May 7, 2019, 1:12 PM IST
Climate Change May Wipe Out Bengal Tiger from Sunderbans, Finds New Study
Bengal tiger (Representative image)

New Delhi: Climate change and rising sea levels ultimately may wipe out the Bengal tiger from the Sunderban delta, scientists have warned in a new study.

The Sunderbans, in south coastal Bangladesh, is the last surviving mangrove habitat and a key stronghold for the endangered species. Perfectly adapted to live in the mangrove ecosystem that spans across 10,000 square kilometer, the study warned that “due to the combined effect of climate change and sea-level rise, there will be no suitable Bengal tiger habitat remaining in the Sundarbans by 2070".

Meanwhile, a United Nations body on Monday predicted that up to one million species were threatened with extinction – many within decades. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report warned that the “health of ecosystems, on which” human and all other species depended were “deteriorating more rapidly than ever".

Because of its geographic location, the Sunderbans have long been at the “forefront of climate change and related events” with changes in vegetation already taking place at the delta. Moreover, the average elevation is about a meter above sea level, making the region especially vulnerable to sea level rise. Apart from aspects of “local climate change”, sea level rise was projected to have a “substantial negative impact on Bengal tiger habitats in this low-lying area”, it said.

The study 'Combined effects of climate change and sea-level rise project dramatic habitat loss of the globally endangered Bengal tiger in the Bangladesh Sundarbans' published in the journal, Science of Total Environment, used two climatic scenarios that had been developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide “projections of suitable habitats of Bengal tigers in 2050 and 2070".

The results were grim.

Sharif A Mukul, lead author of the new report, and his colleagues predicted that sea level rise would deteriorate the situation by “shrinking suitable tiger habitats in the area” and confirmed that “a complete loss of habitat is likely to happen only due to climate change by the year 2070”.

It added, “Although sea level rise continues to threaten the existence of Bengal tiger habitats in the area, the effect will be not as be pronounced as climate change. Due to the combined effect of climate change and sea level rise, there will be no remaining Bengal tiger habitat in the Sundarbans by the year 2070.”

The study recommended, “Enhancing terrestrial protected area coverage, regular monitoring, law enforcement, awareness-building among local residents among the key strategies needed to ensure long-term survival and conservation of the Bengal tiger in the Bangladesh Sundarbans.”

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