Shade Coffee: Update on a Disappearing Refuge for Biodiversity

Posted by Robert Rice on April 30, 2014

In the past three decades, coffee cultivation has gained widespread attention for its crucial role in supporting local and global biodiversity. In this synthetic Overview, we present newly gathered data that summarize how global patterns in coffee distribution and shade vegetation have changed and discuss implications for biodiversity, ecosystem services, and livelihoods.

Although overall cultivated coffee area has decreased by 8% since 1990, coffee production and agricultural intensification have increased in many places and shifted globally, with production expanding in Asia while contracting in Africa. Ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, climate regulation, and nutrient sequestration are generally greater in shaded coffee farms, but many coffee-growing regions are removing shade trees from their management.

Although it is clear that there are ecological and socioeconomic benefits associated with shaded coffee, we expose the many challenges and future research priorities needed to link sustainable coffee management with sustainable livelihoods.

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