Wildlife–human conflicts could shift with climate change
University of Tokyo, Phys.org
June 21, 2022
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science, The University of
Tokyo, find that the risk of human—elephant conflict in Thailand is likely
to shift with climate change. Credit: Institute of Industrial Science, The
University of Tokyo
As natural areas become increasingly fragmented, the potential for humans
and wildlife to interact is growing. Now, researchers from Japan have found
that climate change is altering the risk of such interactions.
In a recent study published in Science of the Total Environment,
researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science, The University of
Tokyo, examined how the risk of human–elephant conflict could change over
time. When humans encroach on natural landscapes, the chances of
interactions with wildlife increase. Conflicts can arise when wildlife
damages livestock or crops, or when human activities damage animal habitat.
For example, forest edges are particularly attractive areas for elephants
on the hunt for food, which can bring them into contact with mature crops,
or with farmers.
"In Thailand, half of the country's population live in rural areas and rely
on agriculture," says lead author Nuntikorn Kitratporn. "Thailand also has
about three to four thousand wild elephants and deforestation and the
growth of commercial agriculture have pushed elephants into increasingly
fragmented patches of habitat, increasing the chance of interactions
between humans and elephants."
Climate change is bringing additional complexity to these interactions, as
changing environmental conditions lead to changes in the behavior and
distribution of elephants. In rural areas where people depend on
agriculture to survive, human–elephant conflict may well intensify in the
future. To assess the risk of this, the researchers used a risk framework
that incorporated different possible scenarios. They used this framework to
examine the recent spatial distribution of human–elephant conflict
(2000–2019) in Thailand and how it may look in the near future (2024–2044).
Different projections of future climate and socioeconomic conditions were
incorporated into the framework and the effects on land use were examined.
"We found a spatial shift in risk toward northern areas and higher
latitudes," says Kitratporn. "In other areas, habitat is likely to become
less suitable over time, which could first increase and gradually decrease
the risk of interactions."
Understanding how human–wildlife interactions may change in the future is
vital for long-term planning. The results from this study could be used to
develop planning strategies in affected communities and raise awareness of
ways in which humans and wildlife can coexist.