Organic shade-grown coffee supports bird communities better than conventional monoculture coffee plantations

Photo Credit: Amber Sciligo

A growing body of scientific evidence continues to show that planting a diverse range of crops (polyculture) and incorporating natural habitat into farmscapes support important biodiversity. This is also true for tropical cropping systems including shade-grown coffee, where biodiversity of particular interest includes birds and large cats like jaguars. A recent study published in the journal Agricultural Sciences found that traditional polyculture shade-grown coffee and organic coffee promote bird abundance and diversity when compared to its conventional coffee counterpart. The most important predictor of bird density was the complexity of vegetation found in traditional and organic coffee farms, but not in intensive monoculture coffee plantations that were conventionally managed. The birds most supported were specialists—those that have specific habitat requirements versus those that can live in more types of habitats. It is likely that vegetative complexity and organic production provide more than nesting habitat for these birds, and also support greater insect diversity and abundance that provide food to support more bird abundance and diversity.