Alien plants growing together threatening tiger habitats
Alien plants, also known as invasive species, can have a negative impact on tiger habitats by reducing the availability of food and cover for native wildlife, including tigers. These plants can outcompete native vegetation and change the composition of the ecosystem, making it less suitable for tigers and other native species. Additionally, invasive plants can also alter the water cycle and fire regimes, further impacting the habitat.
Tigers are a threatened species and their habitats are already under pressure from human activities such as habitat destruction, poaching and climate change. The introduction of invasive plants can further degrade their habitats, making it more difficult for tigers to survive. The protection of tiger habitats is crucial for the conservation of the species and the management of invasive plants is an important aspect of this effort.
There are several ways to manage invasive plants, including manual removal, chemical treatment, and biological control. It is important to use a combination of these methods, as well as to monitor the area for new invasions, in order to effectively control invasive species and protect tiger habitats.
According to a study conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), several alien invasive plants (like Lantana Camara, Parthenium hysterophorous, Prosopis juliflora, etc) growing together can have a detrimental effect on the biodiversities in tiger habitats.
- Invasive/introduced/alien/exotic species are any non-native species that significantly modify or disrupt the ecosystem it colonises.
- Such species may arrive in new areas through natural migration, but they are often introduced by the activities of other species like Humans.
- The study was conducted in Kanha Tiger Reserve (MP), comparing uninvaded native forests with old-growth invasions of single and multiple alien plants.
- India’s biodiverse ecosystems are threatened by a variety of alien plants, introduced during British colonisation. Lantana alone has pervasively invaded 44% of India’s forests.
- Apart from their spread in different ecosystems, little is known and even greater confusion when one asks about how alien plants impact native ecosystems.
Highlights of the study:
- Co-occurring invasive plants have a magnified cumulative impact than their individual impacts, causing ecological homogenisation in invaded regions.
- Multiple alien species together affected soil nutrients and the abundance of rich grasses and herbs.
- Depletion of the native plant populations → Reduced forage availability for herbivores like sambar and chital → diseases in the herbivores → threaten the sustenance of tiger, leopard and dhole.
What needs to be done? Prioritise restoration investments in the least invaded regions to retain native biodiversity and slowly upscale such restored habitats.