Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/Harnessing Ecosystem Services of the tea forests in YunNan China

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Harnessing Ecosystem Services of the tea forests in YunNan, China

Map of Yunnan, China

Yunnan, China, is a place of biological and cultural diversity, but its economic development is far behind other provinces, and the most important problem is the loss of biodiversity. People generally believed that expanding economic growth to promote economic development is a threat to the ecosystem. This case study takes tea species as an example to discuss how to combine biodiversity conservation with the expansion of planting economy, which will be a severe challenge. The local weather, forests, ecosystem services and traditional culture are indispensable support for tea cultivation. The advantages and disadvantages of traditional tea forests and modern tea terraces are analyzed objectively. The combination of traditional and research knowledge is needed in the management of ecosystem services, and how to respond to environmental, social, or other impacts is critical to sustainability of long-term livelihoods of local residents.

Description of Yunnan province


Mangjing Village, Yunnan

The total area of Yunnan province is about 390 thousand square kilometers, accounting for 4.11% of the country's area and eighth in the provincial administrative areas. The east of the province is the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Guizhou Province, the north is Sichuan Province, and the northwest is Tibet autonomous region. Yunnan's border line is 4060 kilometers long, bordering 3 countries: the west is Burma, the south is Laos, and the southeast is Vietnam. Yunnan has about 50% species of birds, mammals and plants,has 55 ethnic minorities.[1].

The Mangjing Village

The Jingmai Mangjing Ancient Tea Forest located in the highland of the Lancang River Basin in Yunnan. This area is regarded as the heritage center of tea, and is the oldest home of tea and tea culture in the world. [2]. The case study located in Yunnan- A province in southwestern China, Mangjing Village located in Lancang County.There are 582 households in the village, with a total population of 2786. The Bulang nationality are considered the first people to start the tea production,and Bulang's traditional crops include rice, barley, corn, cotton, buckwheat. There are Dry land accounts for 3.5% of the rural area, while rice terraces account for only 1.5%. The forest accounts for 64% of the area of the village, of which the area of the tea garden is 7.3%.It is divided into traditional tea garden and modern terrace tea garden. The land use rate of the tea terrace accounts for 2.2% of the village area and the traditional tea garden covers an area of 5.1%. The production of traditional crops and tea is a source of livelihood for the people of Bulang. [3]

Tenure arrangements

- The government set up a forest guard to prohibit farmers from cutting ancient tea plants branches

- Mangjing village has established the rules of the tea forest protection village, and established the mangjing tea forest association, cooperative management, processing, brand and marketing "abaina" tea

- Local governments at different levels now provide weaker farmers with both technology and financial support for reduce the tea plant density and plant the shade trees, such as camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), giant dogwood (Cornus controversa Hemsl) and so on in tea terrace [3]

- The local government has applied to the FAO for the global recognition of traditional tea forests and the related ecosystem as the global important agricultural cultural heritage (GIAHS). And formally put traditional tea forest in GIAHS in 2012 September

- Many species have disappeared in secondary forest, but Schima argentea, Docynia delavayi, and Toxicodendron sussedaneum as pioneer species in the secondary forest still exists due to village rules

- The ancient tea garden was converted from state to family and government intervention was reduced after 1970s[4]

- BuLang villagers and government officials and tea entrepreneurs will engage in formal or informal meetings to interact with each other

- The prohibition of blind pruning of tea tree branches by farmers has prevented the destruction of ancient tea gardens. But it affects some of the necessary management, such as traditional training and eliminating sick branches[5]

Affected Stakeholders

The local farmers

screening of tea leaves

The affected stakeholders are local farmers.Whatever happens, they can always gain the greatest advantage and disadvantage from the tea forest and the tea tree terrace. Tea has been one of the most important resources in Yunnan for decades, and has been considered as the main source of income for local residents since ancient times。 This case located in the village of mangjing,and the mangjing is the ancestor of the development of the traditional tea forest. Because planting tea on terraced fields can increase the output of tea, many farmers have changed the traditional tea garden to modern tea garden, but at the same time, they have also lost their traditional and biological cultural values.

The main relevant objectives of the local farmers are to maintain the traditional tea forest by their ancestor, mangjing people and pass on to their younger generation. Also, they want to keep the sustainability of long-term livelihoods.Their relative power is medium.[3]

Interested Stakeholders

The local government

The interested stakeholders are local government.The case study mentioned that local governments will help all weaker farmers to provide financial and technical support. The local government will grow more shade trees and help reduce the density of tea trees. Local governments can provide financial support for farmers, and they can hire skilled workers to help farmers grow more trees. The local government has also applied the tea plantation to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) as a globally agricultural heritage system for global restructuring, which has also been approved.

The main relevant objectives of the local government is help the weaker farmers, use the land reasonably, protect and maintain a sustainable environment. Their relative power is high.[3]


Consumers who buy tea are interested stakeholders. When they realize the health hazard of tea terrace and the difference between traditional tea forests and modern tea terrace, they will be more interested and willing to buy organic tea whether the quality or price. The quality of tea grown on the modern tea terrace is always associated with large amount of chemical input. On the contrary, tea grown in traditional tea forests is always organic and healthy. Consumer's decision always affects local farmers. If consumers never buy tea planted in a tea terrace, local farmers will no longer have any income, then they will turn to traditional tea gardens.

Consumers would like to buy more health and organic tea from the traditional tea garden, rather than the unhealthy chemical tea grown in the tea terrace. The relative power is low.[3]

Conflict and Challenges

After converting the traditional tea forest into a high-efficiency modern tea forest, although it can get high yield and income in the short term, it will reduce other services such as management, culture and tradition. The people of Bulang began to realize the revival of traditional tea gardens. But the government and merchants want modern terraced tea forest began transition to ecological tea plantation, greedy to combine incompatible "high yield" and "the traditions of the past".[6]

Compared with the government officials, the rights of the local people are relatively weak, but the basic rights and interests are also guaranteed. I think that not only the villagers should work together to maintain the ecological environment, but also the government must always listen to the villagers' opinions so as to achieve the effect of co management and development.

Spectacular terraced landscape and unique ethnic culture not only attract tourists from different regions, but also promote local economic development. However, global climate change will have a potential impact on the local traditional ecosystems. Therefore, the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP), which is a part of the University Network for Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research (UN-CECAR), started a new research on the determination of a suitable countermeasures based on the traditional ecological system, to meet some of the challenges in the future. “The adaptation strategy is expected to emphasize the role of traditional knowledge, including forest and watershed protection, crop diversity in climate change adaptation, as well as propose new on-site measures to reduce the risk of climate change induced floods and droughts.”[7]


The traditional tea gardens practiced by ethnic minorities, such as Bulang, Wa, Hani, and Deang peoples, in Yunnan, China. Traditional tea plantations grow very tall, just like other tree species. On the contrary, there are few kinds of tea in modern terrace tea garden, and the yield is increased by chemical fertilizer. Tea forest also plays a very important role in the maintenance of ecosystem. “Tea forests integrate all ecosystem services, provisioning, supporting, regulating, and cultural services. One of the important roles of tea forests is to support nutrient cycling through rich forest litters pumping from deep soils to generate green manure and flora and fauna habitats for diverse plant species, including endangered ones.”[8]

A case study in the ancient tea garden in Lancang, Yunnan, through the comparison of common tea garden and ancient tea garden: species, biological diversity is high in the ancient tea garden and has a large number of protected species, most plant species can also be used effectively by households. Overall, the comprehensive value of the ancient tea garden is higher than the common tea garden, so how to train the local residents to effectively protect and make rational use of the ancient tea garden will be the goal of the government, research institutions and people need to achieve.[9]


- The government should pay attention to the development of the forest community every other time, to understand the difficulties of the community and to implement the measures in time

- Taking into account the impact of social and cultural traditions rather than on economic benefits

- The system of training forest rangers and other forestry technicians working with the community. Improve their community forest awareness and good exchanges and cooperation with the local villagers

- The village should formulate relevant regulations in the village, manage the farmers who blindly harvest, prohibit the livestock entering the ancient tea garden, and so on, so as to protect the tea garden

- The government has the highest power to help manage and improve the tea garden. It is a good way to encourage and train farmers by establishing relevant technical and scientific research departments.


  1. Wang, J. (2017). Yunnan, Yunnan Province, Yunnan Information, Yun Nan, China Province Information-Yunnan. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017]
  2. (2017). Travelogues - Jingmai-Mangjing (Organic, Fair Trade Tea). [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Liang, L., Xiang, Y. and Takeuchi, K. (2013). Harnessing Ecosystem Services for Local Livelihoods: The Case of Tea Forests in Yunnan, China. [online] The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity. Available at:
  4. Hung, P. (2013). Tea forest in the making: Tea production and the ambiguity of modernity on China’s southwest frontier. Geoforum, 47, pp.178-188.
  5. Long CL, Wang JR, Li YH et al (1997b) Traditional teagarden ecosystems of Xishuangbanna. In: Pei SJ et al (eds) Collected research papers on biodiversity in swidden agroecosystems in Xishuangbanna. Yunnan Education Press, Kunming, pp 57–64
  6. HUANG, S. (2009). The influence of the Institutional Changes in the Countryside on the Terraced-field Culture and Ecology of the Hani Nationality. Journal of Yunnan Nationalities University 26(1): 65–68
  7. LIANG, L. (2010). Biodiversity in the Hani Cultural Landscape. Our World 2.0. Retrieved from:
  8. Takahashi, S. and Liang, L. (2016). Roles of forests in food security based on case studies in Yunnan, China. International Forestry Review, 18(1), pp.123-132.
  9. Qi, D., Guo, H. and Sheng, C. (2012). Assessment of plant species diversity of ancient tea garden communities in Yunnan, Southwest of China. Agroforestry Systems, 87(2), pp.465-474.

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
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