Biodiversity conservation in cocoa production landscapes: an overview
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Cocoa agroforests that retain a floristically diverse and structurally complex shade canopy have the potential to harbour significant levels of biodiversity, yet few studies have documented the plant and animal species occurring within these systems or within landscapes dominated by cocoa production. In this special issue, we bring together nine studies from Latin America, Africa and Asia that document the contribution of cocoa agroforestry systems to biodiversity conservation, and explore how the design, management and location of these systems within the broader landscape influence their value as habitats, resources and biological corridors. Tree diversity within the cocoa production systems is variable, depending on management, cultural differences, location and farm history, among other factors. Animal diversity is typically highest in those cocoa agroforests that have high plant diversity, structurally complex canopies, and abundant surrounding forest cover. In general, both plant and animal diversity within cocoa agroforests is greater than those of other agricultural land uses, but lower than in the original forest habitat. There are several emerging threats to biodiversity conservation within cocoa production landscapes, including the loss of remaining forest cover, the simplification of cocoa shade canopies and the conversion of cocoa agroforestry systems to other agricultural land uses with lower biodiversity value. To counter these threats and conserve biodiversity over the long-term, land management should focus on conserving native forest habitat within cocoa production landscapes, maintaining or restoring floristically diverse and structurally complex shade canopies within cocoa agroforests, and retaining other types of on-farm tree cover to enhance landscape connectivity and habitat availability.