OOS 9-8 - Conservation activities in tropical plantations: A case study of tea plantations from the Southern Western Ghats

Tuesday, August 9, 2016: 10:10 AM
Grand Floridian Blrm G, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Lilly Eluvathingal, Department of Biology, Florida International University, Miami, FL and Maureen A. Donnelly, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL

Anthropogenic conversions of natural areas to agriculture and monoculture plantations are a large threat to flora and fauna, especially in biodiversity hotspots which harbor large numbers of endemic species. Plantations in the tropics are established in areas which are characterized by high species richness. However, studies on the biodiversity present in these systems are only a few decades old. It is becoming clear that these plantations are hospitable and are used by some native organisms. Plantations in the tropics tend to support some native species that are endemic and have narrow distribution ranges indicating a conservation value. Papers published on amphibian diversity in plantations were obtained and examined for factors affecting the number of species with a focus on tropical plantation systems. Thirty-six papers comparing amphibian species richness in plantations and nearby primary forests are compared with each other and to preliminary data on anurans obtained from an active tea plantation in Kerala, India. Tea is a globally popular beverage whose flavor is dependent on the elevation at which it is grown. The plantation study site (1500-2000m above sea level) is in the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot.


Factors like age of the plantation, kind of crop, and harvesting regime did not explain the richness of amphibian species in plantations in the tropics, likely because of the variations in crop types, geographic locations of the studies, and the methods used. Nonetheless, there were always reports of amphibian species from the plantations in each study site and generally plantations are species poor compared to reference sites. We report the species of amphibians sampled from a 350 square km area of heterogeneous, actively managed tea plantations. Of the 22 species encountered in the tea plantations in Munnar, Kerala all but one is endemic to the Western Ghats. Conservation practices that can be implemented to protect amphibians without affecting tea production, including selective protection of breeding micro-habitats and reduced pruning, may increase the attractiveness of tea to an increasingly socially conscious, international market. With the global area under plantations increasing annually, understanding species survival in plantations can provide managers with information on the biodiversity value of their property.