We are an interdisciplinary team of scientists working together to addresses critical knowledge gaps related to climate effects on tea quality and their corresponding socio-economic responses. Tea is a fascinating study system as the most widely-consumed beverage in the world after water and as a quality-driven crop that has an extensive management history. Our primary study objective is to provide quantitative data on how and why tea quality is vulnerable to changing climate conditions and the resulting linkages to consumer purchasing decisions, markets, farmer livelihoods, ecological knowledge, and management practices. Our specific objectives are as follows:
– Objective #1 – Quantify Climate Effects on Tea Quality and Yield: We are working to quantify the effects that current climate and herbivory has on tea quality, via changes in secondary metabolite chemistry and sensory properties, in major tea production areas coupled with experiments in climate-controlled spaces that manipulate precipitation, temperature, and herbivory at levels likely to occur under changing climate conditions. Lead Investigators: (1) Field Sampling and Antioxidant Chemistry: Selena Ahmed; (2) Manipulative Experiments / Herbivory / Soils: Colin Orians and Tim Griffin; (3) Volatile Chemistry and Sensory Panel: Albert Robbat and Colin Orians
– Objective # 2 – Determine Consumer Behavior Decisions and Associated Market Implications: We are working to determine behavioral responses of consumers to climate-induced changes in tea quality and yields and their implications on tea markets regionally and globally. Lead Investigators: (1) Consumer Experiments and Markets: Sean Cash and Tim Griffin; (2) Tea Trader and Connoisseur Surveys: Selena Ahmed
– Objective #3 – Elucidate Feedbacks between Farmer Livelihoods, Knowledge and Management Practices: We are documenting how livelihood changes and tea farmer knowledge of climate effects on crop quality and yields feedback into the way farmers adapt their management and tea processing to adapt to climate conditions. We are working to identify the socio-ecological factors that enhance farmer adaptive capacity. Lead Investigators: Selena Ahmed and Rick Stepp
– Objective #4 – Develop Tea Production Plans and Policies to Mitigate Climate Risk: Ultimately, we will integrate findings from Objectives #1-3 and use this evidence to develop management plans and policy suggestions for tea agro-ecosystems and processing that will lead to long-term sustainability of tea production and consumption systems under various climate scenarios. Lead Investigators: (1) Data Integration: All Investigators; (2) Climate Modeling: Corene Matyas; (3) Management Plans and Policies: Tim Griffin and Selena Ahmed
The expected intellectual significance of this project is to inform climate effects on tea quality and to facilitate societal actions towards sustainability of agro-ecosystems and farmer livelihoods. A key goal of our dissemination strategy is to apply findings to develop evidence-based management plans and policy suggestions for land-use organizations in tea producing areas. While this study focuses on tea as a study system, results have the potential to more broadly advance the theoretical understanding of climate effects on crop quality and socio-economic responses.