The threat of accelerating climate change on species distribution now and in the future is a topic of increasing research interest. However, little work has been undertaken to assess how shifting climates will affect the suitability of tea cultivation. Therefore, we used MaxEnt modelling to project the impact of current and future climatic scenarios on the potential distribution of tea across the four tea-producing countries of China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka. Projections were made for the years 2050 and 2070 with three Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) using seven bioclimatic predictors under three global circulation models (GCMs). The current and future habitat suitability for tea predicted by the models produced a high accuracy rate, with high areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUCs) for all tested RCPs under the three GCMs for the four countries. The mean true skill statistic (TSS) values for tea in Sri Lanka, Kenya, India and China were 0.80, 0.91, 0.91, and 0.74, respectively. The kappa values (k) of the current and future models for all four countries ranged from 0.40 to 0.75, which indicates that the overall performance of the model was good. The precipitation seasonality and annual precipitation were found to be the most influential variables in Sri Lanka and India, respectively, while annual mean temperature was the most effective contributor for determining the suitability of habitat for tea in Kenya and China. An important proviso is that some existing tea-growing areas will face reduced suitability for future tea cultivation suggesting that by 2050 there will be a drastic reduction in the optimal suitability by averages of 26.2%, 14%, and 4.7% in Kenya, Sri Lanka and China, respectively. The optimal suitability will be reduced by 15.1%, 28.6% and 2.6% in Kenya, Sri Lanka and China, respectively, by 2070. India displays an advantage in projected future climates as it gains optimal suitability areas of 15% by 2050 and 25% by 2070.
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