Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 2257–2292 | Cite as

Agroforestry systems conserve species-rich but modified assemblages of tropical birds and bats

  • Celia A. HarveyEmail author
  • Jorge A. González Villalobos
Original Paper


Although an increasing number of studies have shown that diverse, multi-strata agroforestry systems can contribute to the conservation of tropical biodiversity, there is still debate about how the biodiversity within agroforestry systems compares to that of intact forest and alternative land uses. In order to assess the relative importance of agroforestry systems for biodiversity conservation, we characterized bat and bird assemblages occurring in forests, two types of agroforestry systems (cacao and banana) and plantain monocultures in the indigenous reserves of Talamanca, Costa Rica. A total of 2,678 bats of 45 species were captured, and 3,056 birds of 224 species were observed. Agroforestry systems maintained bat assemblages that were as (or more) species-rich, abundant and diverse as forests, had the same basic suite of dominant species, but contained more nectarivorous bats than forests. Agroforestry systems also contained bird assemblages that were as abundant, species-rich and diverse as forests; however the species composition of these assemblages was highly modified, with fewer forest dependent species, more open area species and different dominant species. The plantain monocultures had highly modified and depauperate assemblages of both birds and bats. Across land uses, bird diversity and species richness were more closely correlated with the structural and floristic characteristics than were bats, suggesting potential taxon-specific responses to different land uses. Our results indicate that diverse cacao and banana agroforestry systems contribute to conservation efforts by serving as habitats to high numbers of bird and bat species, including some, but not all, forest-dependent species and species of known conservation concern. However, because the animal assemblages in agroforestry systems differ from those in forests, the maintenance of forests within the agricultural landscape is critical for conserving intact assemblages at the landscape level.


Banana agroforestry systems Biodiversity conservation Cacao agroforestry systems Costa Rica Human-modified landscapes Indigenous agroecosystems Land use Talamanca Tropical forests 



We are very grateful to the BriBri and Cabecar farmers who permitted research on their farms and to the large group of people who assisted with field research: Heiber Armero, Juan Carlos Barrantes, Paola Benavides, Angela Burgos, Fidel Fernandez, Carole Gaudrain, Richard Hayes, Florentino Hernandez, Arlen López, Bruno López, Eliodoro López, Heiner López, Nixon López, Javier Mendez, Karina Mora, Tomas Morales, Odilio Reyes, Eliodoro Salazar, Vilmar Sánchez, Pedro Suatunce, Patrick Verté, and Miguel Angel Uva. We also thank Fernando Casanoves for statistical support; Eduardo Somarriba, Maria Trivelato, Marilyn Villalobos, Luisa Trujillo and Juan Martinez for logistical support; and APPTA, ADITICA, ADITIBRI, RUTA, The World Bank and CATIE for institutional support. Funding for this research was provided by the GEF Project “Biodiversity conservation and sustainable production in indigenous organic cacao small farms of the Talamanca-Caribbean corridor, Costa Rica” (GEF/World Bank, Grant TF-027789).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Celia A. Harvey
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jorge A. González Villalobos
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Agriculture and AgroforestryCATIETurrialbaCosta Rica
  2. 2.Instituto Internacional de Conservación y Manejo de Vida Silvestre (ICOMVIS)Universidad Nacional de Costa RicaHerediaCosta Rica
  3. 3.Conservation InternationalArlingtonUSA

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