Original Contribution

EcoHealth

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 145-158

First online:

Do Shade-Grown Coffee Plantations Pose a Disease Risk for Wild Birds?

  • Sonia M. HernandezAffiliated withOdum School of Ecology, University of GeorgiaDaniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, University of Georgia Email author 
  • , Valerie E. PetersAffiliated withOdum School of Ecology, University of GeorgiaDepartment of Zoology, Miami University
  • , P. Logan WeygandtAffiliated withJohn Hopkins School of Medicine
  • , Carlos JimenezAffiliated withEscuela de Medicina Veterinaria, Universidad Nacional de Costa RicaPrograma de Investigacion en Enfermedades Tropicales, Escuela de Medicina Veterinaria, Universidad Nacional
  • , Pedro VillegasAffiliated withDepartment of Population Health, Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia
  • , Barry O’ConnorAffiliated withInsect Division, Museum of Zoology, University of MichiganDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan
  • , Michael J. YabsleyAffiliated withDaniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, University of Georgia
  • , Maricarmen GarciaAffiliated withDepartment of Population Health, Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia
  • , Sylva M. RibletAffiliated withDepartment of Population Health, Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia
    • , C. Ron CarrollAffiliated withOdum School of Ecology, University of Georgia

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Abstract

Shade-grown coffee plantations are often promoted as a conservation strategy for wild birds. However, these agro-ecosystems are actively managed for food production, which may alter bird behaviors or interactions that could change bird health, compared to natural forest. To examine whether there is a difference between the health parameters of wild birds inhabiting shade-grown coffee plantations and natural forest, we evaluated birds in Costa Rica for (1) their general body condition, (2) antibodies to pathogens, (paramyxovirus and Mycoplasma spp.), and (3) the prevalence and diversity of endo-, ecto-, and hemoparasites. We measured exposure to Mycoplasma spp. and paramyxovirus because these are pathogens that could have been introduced with domestic poultry, one mechanism by which these landscapes could be detrimental to wild birds. We captured 1,561 birds representing 75 species. Although seasonal factors influenced body condition, we did not find bird general body condition to be different. A total of 556 birds of 31 species were tested for antibodies against paramyxovirus-1. Of these, five birds tested positive, four of which were from shade coffee. Out of 461 other tests for pathogens (for antibodies and nucleotide detection), none were positive. Pterolichus obtusus, the feather mite of chickens, was found on 15 birds representing two species and all were from shade-coffee plantations. Larvated eggs of Syngamus trachea, a nematode typically associated with chickens, were found in four birds captured in shade coffee and one captured in forest. For hemoparasites, a total of 1,121 blood smears from 68 bird species were examined, and only one species showed a higher prevalence of infection in shade coffee. Our results indicate that shade-coffee plantations do not pose a significant health risk to forest birds, but at least two groups of pathogens may deserve further attention: Haemoproteus spp. and the diversity and identity of endoparasites.

Keywords

disease pathogen wild bird Costa Rica shade coffee conservation