Research: Epiphytes in coffee plantations

by JulieCraves on January 31, 2006

These two recent papers looked at epiphytes (plants that grow on others, but are not parasitic, such as orchids or bromeliads) in coffee plantations — whether shade coffee plantations preserved epiphyte biodiversity, and whether epiphytes were important to birds. Under shade-grown coffee certification, the pruning or removal of epiphytes is discouraged.

Hietz, P.  2005.  Conservation of vascular epiphyte diversity in Mexican coffee plantations. Conservation Biology 19:391-399.

This study surveyed nine shade coffee plantations in Mexico and found 89 species of epiphytes in the plantations, and 104 in natural forests.  Plantations with smaller trees and less shade had fewer epiphytes.

Cruz-Angon, A. and R. Greenberg. 2005.  Are epiphytes important for birds in coffee plantations? An experimental assessment.  Journal of Applied Ecology 42:150-159.

Plots in which epiphytes were intact and plots in which they were removed were compared in the breeding and non-breeding seasons.  When epiphytes are removed, canopy cover, foraging locations, nest sites, and nest materials are eliminated and microclimate changes.

This study found that plots without epiphytes had less bird diversity. Eighteen forest bird species were significantly more abundant in plots with epiphytes, and resident species that used epiphytes for nesting were more abundant in these plots as well. Three non-forest bird species were more abundant in plots without epiphytes.

Revised on June 12, 2014

Posted in Research on coffee growing

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