Rubber agroforestry in Thailand provides some biodiversity benefits without reducing yields

Warren-Thomas Eleanor, Nelson Luke, Juthong Watinee, Bumrungsri Sara, Brattström Oskar, Stroesser Laetitia, Chambon Bénédicte, Penot Eric, Tongkaemkaew Uraiwan, Edwards David P., Dolman Paul M.. 2020. Rubber agroforestry in Thailand provides some biodiversity benefits without reducing yields. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57 (1) : pp. 17-30.

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Abstract : Monocultural rubber plantations have replaced tropical forest, causing biodiversity loss. While protecting intact or semi‐intact biodiverse forest is paramount, improving biodiversity value within the 11.4 million hectares of existing rubber plantations could offer important conservation benefits, if yields are also maintained. Some farmers practice agroforestry with high‐yielding clonal rubber varieties to increase and diversify incomes. Here, we ask whether such rubber agroforestry improves biodiversity value or affects rubber yields relative to monoculture. We surveyed birds, fruit‐feeding butterflies and reptiles in 25 monocultural and 39 agroforest smallholder rubber plots in Thailand, the world's biggest rubber producer. Management and vegetation structure data were collected from each plot, and landscape composition around plots was quantified. Rubber yield data were collected for a separate set of 34 monocultural and 47 agroforest rubber plots in the same region. Reported rubber yields did not differ between agroforests and monocultures, meaning adoption of agroforestry in this context should not increase land demand for natural rubber. Butterfly richness was greater in agroforests, where richness increased with greater natural forest extent in the landscape. Bird and reptile richness were similar between agroforests and monocultures, but bird richness increased with the height of herbaceous vegetation inside rubber plots. Species composition of butterflies differed between agroforests and monocultures, and in response to natural forest extent, while bird composition was influenced by herbaceous vegetation height within plots, the density of non‐rubber trees within plots (representing agroforestry complexity) and natural forest extent in the landscape. Reptile composition was influenced by canopy cover and open habitat extent in the landscape. Conservation priority and forest‐dependent birds were not supported within rubber. Synthesis and applications. Rubber agroforestry using clonal varieties provides modest biodiversity benefits relative to monocultures, without compromising yields. Agroforests may also generate ecosystem service and livelihood benefits. Management of monocultural rubber production to increase inter‐row vegetation height and complexity may further benefit biodiversity. However, biodiversity losses from encroachment of rubber onto forests will not be offset by rubber agroforestry or rubber plot management. This evidence is important for developing guidelines around biodiversity‐friendly rubber and sustainable supply chains, and for farmers interested in diversifying rubber production.

Mots-clés Agrovoc : Hevea brasiliensis, Plantation forestière, Agroforesterie, Biodiversité, Oiseau, Reptile, Lepidoptera, Écosystème forestier, Agriculture durable, Diversification

Mots-clés géographiques Agrovoc : Thaïlande

Mots-clés libres : Bird, Butterfly, Diversification, Hevea, Land sharing, Reptile, Sustainability, Tropical forest

Classification Agris : K10 - Forestry production
F08 - Cropping patterns and systems
P01 - Nature conservation and land resources

Champ stratégique Cirad : CTS 2 (2019-) - Transitions agroécologiques

Agence de financement hors UE : British Ornithologists' Union

Auteurs et affiliations

  • Warren-Thomas Eleanor, University of East Anglia (GBR) - auteur correspondant
  • Nelson Luke, University of Sheffield (GBR)
  • Juthong Watinee, Prince of Songkla University (THA)
  • Bumrungsri Sara, Prince of Songkla University (THA)
  • Brattström Oskar, University of Cambridge (GBR)
  • Stroesser Laetitia, Kasetsart University (THA)
  • Chambon Bénédicte, CIRAD-PERSYST-UPR Systèmes de pérennes (THA)
  • Penot Eric, CIRAD-ES-UMR INNOVATION (FRA) ORCID: 0000-0002-2773-5440
  • Tongkaemkaew Uraiwan, Thaksin University (THA)
  • Edwards David P., University of Sheffield (GBR)
  • Dolman Paul M., University of East Anglia (GBR)

Source : Cirad-Agritrop (

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