The Tea Fauna was started in 2017 as an initiative project. It brought together researchers, tea businesses and farmers. Our project aims the knowledge about biodiversity trends in Asia, better understanding insects fauna in natural tea habitats or plantations, providing useful data for forest conservation and services for local communities to encourage agroforestry practices in tea production.
The project largely involves citizen science. It covers large area across Asia collecting data with the help of the local tea farmers, people living close to natural habitats.
The tea trees and bushes (Camellia sinensis, C. sinensis var. assamica, C. taliensis) are native in Eastern Himalaya Region. Their aerials range from Assam State of India till Vietnamese and Chinese mountain ridges around Southern Chinese Sea. Some local communities practice wild tea picking when tea production based on forest use. But the same time the tea plantations broadly caused vast areas of deforestation in native tea range as well as globally in places with subtropical climate where the tea was introduced. We aim to run long term monitoring of insect diversity in both, natural tea habitats and mass plantations. This survey will allow to reveal trends in insect diversity in tea habitats, to compare two types of insect diversity, native forest and agrocenosis. We want to test if tea plantations serve as refugium for entomofauna in disturbed habitats.
Monsoon Tea is our main partner, a Thai tea company that introduced Forest Friendly Tea concept in Northern Thailand. Traditionally Eastern Himalayan tribes use wild tea as not a drink but fermented food. Many local communities of Northern Thailand still keep this culture. The tea grown and harvested with a sustainable methods can protect the forest if its production sourced either from completely wild tea plants, or agroforestry planted. Tea consumption then is the way of environmental activism. In future tea should be a tool of re-forestation and nature conservation. Monsoon Tea's sustainable business model rises forests value via local communities applying agroforestry practices. These communities help us to sample and keep research plots constantly.
Another part of work is going on in Yunnan Province of China. Our laboratory is based in Institute of Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity Research, Dali University. Here we do long term research at an experimental organic university tea garden at the Cang Mountain Range. These mountains are over 4100 m above the sea level. The Southern part of Yulong Mountain Massive that in its turn part of Yun Range, the most Eastern side of Hengduan Mountains connecting the southeast portions of the Tibetan Plateau with Yunnan. The Himalaya rise formed here the Three Parallel Rivers region featured by strongly vertical relief. These Mountains covered with subalpine conifer forests, the transition between tropical and temperate ecoregions along the southeastern rim of the Tibetan Plateau. The main research direction of the Institute is biodiversity in Three Parallel Rivers region. Thus data obtained at these research tea plots are part of bigger scale biodiversity studies, relations elevational gradients and insect diversity.