Shade Grown Coffee & Biodiversity

Effects of shade grown versus sun grown coffee on small mammal biodiversity

» Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Environmental | Comments Off on Shade Grown Coffee & Biodiversity

Shade Grown Coffee & Biodiversity

I’m sure most of us have heard of shade grown coffee and that we might think that this coffee is better for the environment.  Right?  Well the answer is yes.  The following is extracted from a study in Costa Rica (Caudill S., F. DeClerck, and T. Husband and published in Science Direct – Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment Volume 199).

There has been much research on the benefits of shade grown coffee for birds and insects.  This new study focussed on small, non- flying mammals and compared their abundance in three shade grown coffee plantations versus sun grown coffee plantations and forest landscapes.  Each of the 3 sites was sampled in four sessions totalling 46 sampling nights.  501 individuals of 17 small and medium mammal species were captured over seven months. There was no significant difference between the abundance and richness of small non-flying mammals found between the shade coffee plantations and the forest habitats embedded and adjacent to the coffee growing areas. However, both of these habitats had significantly more species and higher abundances than sun coffee habitats. Within habitats, at the plot level, higher amounts of canopy cover and lower strata vegetation (i.e., weeds, grasses, plants, and understory shrubs from 5 cm–1 m tall) significantly increased small mammal abundance and richness. Within coffee habitats (sun and shade), greater amounts of canopy cover were significantly associated with higher small mammal abundance and richness.  Small mammals thrived in areas adjacent to forest patches and as the proportion of forested areas within the landscape increased. This study suggests  that, while there is no substitute for native forest, shade coffee provides habitat for small non-flying mammals, particularly in comparison to sun coffee. Based on these findings, the researchers recommend including shade trees, maintaining high amounts of canopy cover, and retaining lower strata vegetation (5 cm–1 m) within coffee farms. In addition, sun growing coffee plantations could have forested habitats re-established and embedded within the coffee landscape that would enhance small  mammal diversity.

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