Brewing trouble: coffee invasion in relation to edges and forest structure in tropical rainforest fragments of the Western Ghats, India
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While the conservation impacts of invasive plant species on tropical biodiversity is widely recognised, little is known of the potential for cultivated crops turning invasive in tropical forest regions. In the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot, India, fragmented rainforests often adjoin coffee plantations. This study in the Anamalai hills assessed the effects of distance from edges and forest structure on the occurrence and abundance of shade-tolerant coffee (Arabica Coffea arabica and Robusta C. canephora) in four fragments (32–200 ha) using replicate line transects laid from the edges into the interiors. The coffee species cultivated in adjoining plantations was more abundant than the other coffee species inside study fragments, showing a clear decline in stem density from edge (0 m) to interior (250 m), suggesting the influence of propagule pressure of adjoining plantations, coupled with edge effects and seed dispersal by animals. Significant positive correlations of coffee density with canopy cover indicate the potential threat of coffee invasion even in closed canopy rainforests. Stem density of Coffea arabica (150–1,825 stems/ha) was higher in more disturbed fragments, whereas Coffea canephora had spread in disturbed and undisturbed sites achieving much higher densities (6.3–11,486 stems/ha). In addition, a negative relationship between C. canephora and native shrub density indicates its potential detrimental effects on native plants.