Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 1175–1194 | Cite as

Tree diversity on sustainably certified and conventional coffee farms in Central America

  • Jeremy HaggarEmail author
  • Michael Asigbaase
  • Glenda Bonilla
  • Jose Pico
  • Alma Quilo
Original Paper


Shade coffee agroforestry systems have the potential to support biodiversity. Sustainable certification of coffee has been promoted as a means to provide incentives to maintain these systems, but as yet there is little evidence if this is effective. We analyzed tree diversity on smallholder organic and conventional farms in buffer zones of three conservation areas in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua (the later included some large-scale conventional and Rainforest Alliance certified farms). Organic farms had greater farm level tree species richness and Shannon diversity compared to conventional farms; estimated native tree species richness across the landscape was probably greater on organic farms than conventional in Nicaragua (48 vs. 28 species respectively) and possibly in Guatemala (23 vs. 15 species respectively). Organic farms had higher shade levels and more tree strata than conventional farms. In Guatemala and Nicaragua tree species composition was not closely related to whether farms were organic or conventional, although within composition clusters, organic farms tended to have greater diversity. In contrast, organic and conventional farms in Costa Rica mostly belonged to different tree species clusters. In Nicaragua most large-scale farms, and all Rainforest certified farms, formed a distinct species composition cluster with presence of old-growth forest species and within which Rainforest farms had greater diversity. Tree species composition of the shade seems to be mainly due to management history; but certification effectively differentiates those farms with greater tree diversity. Longer-term monitoring is required to determine whether certification can be an incentive to conserve or expand biodiverse coffee agroforestry systems within the buffer zones around conservation areas.


Agroforestry Organic Rainforest Alliance Shade coffee Shannon diversity index Species richness 



This research was supported by the EC funded Project “CAFNET: Connecting, enhancing and sustaining environmental services and market values of coffee agroforestry in Central America, East Africa and India” EC Contract number EuropeAid/ENV/2006/114-382/TPS which had no involvement with the design or analysis of the research, and the DEFRA/Darwin Initiative funded Project 19-018 “Agroforests: a critical resource for sustaining megadiversity in Guatemala”. Elias de Melo and Gabriela Soto of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE) in Costa Rica coordinated the CAFNET Project in Central America and supervised parts of this research. Cesar Tot of Fundacion Defensores de la Naturaleza, and Luis Cuadra and Urbina Alvarado students at the National Agrarian University supported the implementation of the research in Guatemala and Nicaragua, respectively. We thank Stephen Young for his advice on the statistical analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy Haggar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Asigbaase
    • 1
  • Glenda Bonilla
    • 2
  • Jose Pico
    • 3
  • Alma Quilo
    • 4
  1. 1.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of GreenwichChathamUK
  2. 2.Universidad Nacional AgrariaManaguaNicaragua
  3. 3.Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education CenterCATIETurrialbaCosta Rica
  4. 4.Centre for Biodiversity and Envionmental StudiesUniversidad del ValleGuatemala CityGuatemala

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