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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