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Report from the Field

Assessing the Conservation Value of Shade-Grown Coffee: a Biological Perspective using Neotropical Birds

Thomas V. Dietsch
School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, 430 E. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109;

Shade-grown coffee has been marketed as a less intensive management practice that may help improve biodiversity conservation (Perfecto et al. 1996). Studies have shown higher species richness in shade-grown coffee than sun, however, effects on bird species of conservation concern are not clear. This study uses two international conservation lists produced by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to evaluate potential benefits for Neotropical birds. Sixty-six species of birds observed in coffee grown with a shade component were found on either the IUCN or CITES lists. An alternative approach may be to use range-restricted endemic birds as indicators of conservation success (ICBP 1992). Countries with high numbers of these endemics are among the highest-ranked producers of coffee. Biodiversity-friendly agriculture is only in its infancy, with coffee as an important test case. Improved assessment and monitoring of species at risk, Neotropical birds in this case, can provide an important guide for future research while improving consumer confidence in this complicated effort.

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