Comparing tree diversity and composition in coffee farms and sacred forests in the Western Ghats of India
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Expansion of coffee cultivation is one of the causes of deforestation and biodiversity loss. However, shade grown coffee has been promoted as a means for preserving biodiversity in the tropics. In this study we compared tree diversity in two types of coffee management regimes with the sacred groves in the Western Ghats of India. We computed species accumulation curves, species diversity indices and evenness indices to compare the different management regimes. Results of diversity indices showed that shade coffee had less diversity compared to sacred groves. Exotic species dominated the tree diversity in lands where the tree harvesting rights are with the growers. Native trees dominated the tree diversity when growers had no ownership rights on trees. A species accumulation curve suggested that the sacred grove had higher species richness compared to other two habitats. Lack of incentive to preserve endemic species as shade trees is forcing growers to plant more exotic species in shade grown coffee plots. If encouraged, shade grown coffee can preserve some biodiversity, but cannot provide all ecological benefits of a natural forest.