Coffee shrubs grown under a canopy of native trees is called rustic coffee. This method of growing coffee is the best for preserving biodiversity, as measured with species of birds, ants, and trees, and is similar to the biodiversity found in natural forests.
Shade grown coffee farm
Coffee can be grown under more intensive management, from planted shade trees of a particular species; to sun coffee, coffee grown without any shade. As the management of a coffee farm increases, the biodiversity decreases.
Birds and ants that specialize in living in forests are the most affected by coffee farm intensification.
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Philpott, Stacy M., Arendt, Wayne J., Armbrecht, Inge, Bichier, Peter, Diestch, Thomas V., Gordon, Caleb, Greenberg, Russell S., Perfecto, Ivette, Reynoso-Santos, Roberto, Soto-Pinto, Lorena, Tejeda-Cruz, Cesar, Williams-Linera, Guadalupe, Valenzuela, Jorge and Zolotoff, Jose Manuel 2008. Biodiversity Loss in Latin American Coffee Landscapes: Review of the Evidence on Ants, Birds, and Trees. Conservation Biology, 22(5): 1093-1105.
Studies have documented biodiversity losses due to intensification of coffee management (reduction in canopy richness and complexity). Nevertheless, questions remain regarding relative sensitivity of different taxa, habitat specialists, and functional groups, and whether implications for biodiversity conservation vary across regions. We quantitatively reviewed data from ant, bird, and tree biodiversity studies in coffee agroecosystems to address the following questions: Does species richness decline with intensification or with individual vegetation characteristics? Are there significant losses of species richness in coffee-management systems compared with forests? Is species loss greater for forest species or for particular functional groups? and are ants or birds more strongly affected by intensification? Across studies, ant and bird richness declined with management intensification and with changes in vegetation. Species richness of all ants and birds and of forest ant and bird species was lower in most coffee agroecosystems than in forests, but rustic coffee (grown under native forest canopies) had equal or greater ant and bird richness than nearby forests. Sun coffee (grown without canopy trees) sustained the highest species losses, and species loss of forest ant, bird, and tree species increased with management intensity. Losses of ant and bird species were similar, although losses of forest ants were more drastic in rustic coffee. Richness of migratory birds and of birds that forage across vegetation strata was less affected by intensification than richness of resident, canopy, and understory bird species. Rustic farms protected more species than other coffee systems, and loss of species depended greatly on habitat specialization and functional traits. We recommend that forest be protected, rustic coffee be promoted, and intensive coffee farms be restored by augmenting native tree density and richness and allowing growth of epiphytes. We also recommend that future research focus on potential trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and farmer livelihoods stemming from coffee production.
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