Tigers are not only strong, powerful, graceful, fearsome and beautiful to look at. They also play a critical role in ecosystems, which is why environmental organisations are so keen to protect them. Without tigers, some parts of the world would be completely different places. So let’s delve deeper into why these striped cats are so important.
What is an Ecosystem?
The definition of an ecosystem can get a little complicated. But the easiest way to explain it is that it’s a community or group of living organisms that interact with each other in a specific environment. There are many different types of ecosystems, from forests and grasslands to deserts and marine ecosystems and each one’s survival depends on the right balance of organisms and energy flows. The slightest disturbance within an ecosystem can result in everything from climate damage to the overpopulation of certain species. So it’s crucial that ecosystems are looked after and left to thrive simultaneously.
What is a Tiger’s Role in the Ecosystem?
Tigers live in many different ecosystems including tropical rainforests, mangrove swamps, evergreen forests, grasslands, savannahs and rocky areas. But their presence is crucial no matter where they are found. Tigers are important to all of us because:
Tigers are ‘apex’ predators. This means they’re at the top of the food chain and help to control a balanced food web in their ecosystems. In other words, they keep the number of herbivores down by consuming them on a regular basis. If the number of herbivores were allowed to increase dramatically, this would lead to an overconsumption of vegetation, and in turn destroy habitats. Prey species might even expand into human settlements due to damaged habitats and this would greatly impact how wild animals and humans live side by side.
While the thought of tigers hunting other innocent animals might seem upsetting at first, it’s necessary to ensure the ecosystem remains balanced.
Tiger reserves help to protect this beautiful animal, but they’re not just important for tiger survival. More than 35 rivers originate from these areas in India, which are crucial for water security in the country. Tiger water reserves also sequester carbon, provide oxygen and slowly release groundwater to regulate floods. So, protecting tiger reserves has a knock-on impact on the rest of the ecosystem.
Well-managed tiger landscapes are vital for indigenous peoples and local communities as they provide access to natural resources such as wood. Healthy forest habitats also help moderate extreme weather events such as cyclone storms and floods.
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