Can tea support biodiversity with a few “nudges” in management: Evidence from tea growing landscapes around the world
Global Ecology and Conservation
Conversion of natural habitats to intensive land-uses, has resulted in fragmentation and loss of biodiversity. There is a spillover of species and ecological processes from natural ecosystems to modified landscapes as they are often juxtaposed with each other. Therefore, there is a need to assess the ability of such managed landscapes to sustain biodiversity. In this synthesis, we explore biodiversity in tea plantations through the lens of reconciliation ecology and agroecology. We ask if tea agroecosystems support biodiversity and attributes that can contribute to or impede biodiversity support. Through a qualitative assessment of accessible peer-reviewed and non-academic grey literature, we present a comprehensive yet broad overview of tea cultivation practices globally, we prospect the diversity of ecosystems and biodiversity they support and analyze them as complementary habitats for conservation. Through 78 peer-reviewed and 47 grey literature, we found that tea grows in 26 different ways across 25 countries - from ancient tea forests to tea monocultures. Through visual representations we show, how tea plantations support diverse groups from native plants, to mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, arthropods, annelids, nematodes, and micro-organisms when managed agroecologically. We conclude that tea plantations expansion and conventional management have been the main threats to biodiversity however tea agroecosystems can become complimentary spaces for conservation outside protected areas via adoption of traditional practices or incorporating organic farming, native shade trees, and maintaining habitat diversity within monocultures – standards that multiple certifications often endorse and enforce serving as a helpful “nudge”. With most tea getting certified, and focus on landscapes rather than just the product, one can convert monocultures into a mosaic of landscapes that support biodiversity along with the livelihoods of people dependent on them.
Chowdhury, Annesha; Samrat, Abhishek; and Devy, M. Soubadra, "Can tea support biodiversity with a few “nudges” in management: Evidence from tea growing landscapes around the world" (2021). Open Access archive. 2375.