Research: Ants on Colombian coffee farms

by JulieCraves on September 8, 2006

Armbrecht, I., I. Perfecto, and E. Silverman. 2006. Limitation of nesting resources for ants in Colombian forests and coffee plantations.  Ecological Entomology 31:403-410.

Ants are popular research subjects in coffee farms because they are abundant and important components of tropical forest ecosystems (summaries of other research here). This study looked at ants that nest in leaf litter and those that nest in twigs to see if these nest sites are limited in different coffee farm types — sun, monogeneric shade, polygeneric shade, and in forest.

The response of the ants to the type of coffee farm depended a great deal on the species, elevation, and predatory ant assembleges.  Major findings include that there were more species of litter-nesting ants in the shade systems than in sun coffee, and there were more ant colonies in the monogeneric system (one species of shade tree) than in the polygeneric (multiple species of shade trees) or sun systems.  This was an intriguing finding, I thought, and the authors thought that in part it might be due to the fact that the polygeneric shade farms were also organic, and used coffee pulp as a mulch — generally placed right where the ant plots used in the study were located.  Caffeine in the pulp could have depressed the number of ants in these plots (the number of species was very high, however).

The farms were in the Apia municipality, and the sun farms were La Felisa, La Maria, and La Estrella.  This is not the same La Estrella farm that placed in the 2006 Cup of Excellence program (that one is in Huila “state” while Apia is in Risaralda).  La Clarita, one of the polygeneric farms in the study, is Rainforest Alliance certified.

Revised on November 2, 2010

Posted in Research on coffee growing

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