, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 1239-1252

Conservation of biodiversity in coffee agroecosystems: a tri-taxa comparison in southern Mexico

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We compare species richness of birds, fruit-feeding butterflies and ground-foraging ants along a coffee intensification gradient represented by a reduction in the number of species of shade trees and percentage of shade cover in coffee plantations. We sampled the three taxa in the same plots within the same period of time. Two sites were selected in the Soconusco region of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Within each site four habitat types were selected and within each habitat type four points were randomly selected. The habitat types were forest, rustic coffee, diverse shade coffee, and intensive coffee (low density of shade). We found different responses of the three taxa along the intensification gradient. While ants and butterflies generally decrease in species richness with the decrease of shade cover, birds declined in one site but increased in the other. Ant species richness appears to be more resistant to habitat modification, while butterfly species richness appears to be more sensitive. Bird species richness was correlated with distance from forest fragments but not with habitat type, suggesting that scale and landscape structure may be important for more mobile taxa. For each of these taxa, the rustic plantation was the one that maintained species richness most similar to the forest. We found no correlation between the three taxa, suggesting that none of these taxa are good candidates as surrogates for each other. We discuss the implications of these results for the conservation of biodiversity in coffee plantations, in particular, the importance of distinguishing between different levels of shade, and the possibility that different taxa might be responding to habitat changes at different spatial scales.