Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 1239–1252 | Cite as

Conservation of biodiversity in coffee agroecosystems: a tri-taxa comparison in southern Mexico

  • Ivette Perfecto
  • Alexandre Mas
  • Thomas Dietsch
  • John Vandermeer


We compare species richness of birds, fruit-feeding butterflies and ground-foraging ants along a coffee intensification gradient represented by a reduction in the number of species of shade trees and percentage of shade cover in coffee plantations. We sampled the three taxa in the same plots within the same period of time. Two sites were selected in the Soconusco region of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Within each site four habitat types were selected and within each habitat type four points were randomly selected. The habitat types were forest, rustic coffee, diverse shade coffee, and intensive coffee (low density of shade). We found different responses of the three taxa along the intensification gradient. While ants and butterflies generally decrease in species richness with the decrease of shade cover, birds declined in one site but increased in the other. Ant species richness appears to be more resistant to habitat modification, while butterfly species richness appears to be more sensitive. Bird species richness was correlated with distance from forest fragments but not with habitat type, suggesting that scale and landscape structure may be important for more mobile taxa. For each of these taxa, the rustic plantation was the one that maintained species richness most similar to the forest. We found no correlation between the three taxa, suggesting that none of these taxa are good candidates as surrogates for each other. We discuss the implications of these results for the conservation of biodiversity in coffee plantations, in particular, the importance of distinguishing between different levels of shade, and the possibility that different taxa might be responding to habitat changes at different spatial scales.

Ants Biodiversity Birds Butterflies Coffee Indicator taxa Mexico Species richness 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andersen A.N. 1997. Using ants as bioindicators: multiscale issues in ant community ecology. Conservation Ecology (on-line) 1 ( Scholar
  2. Bibby C.J., Burgess N.D. and Hill D.A. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  3. Bowman D.J.M.S., Woinarski J.C.Z., Sands D.P.A., Wells A. and McShane V.J. 1990. Slash-and-burn agriculture in the west coastal lowlands of Papua New Guinea: responses of birds, butterflies and reptiles. Journal of Biogeography 17: 227–239.Google Scholar
  4. Brown K.S. 1996. The use of insects in the study, inventory, conservation and monitoring of biological diversity in Neotropical habitats, in relation to land use systems. Decline and Conservation of Butterflies in Japan III: 128–149.Google Scholar
  5. Brown K.S. 1997. Diversity, disturbance, and suitable use of Neotropical forests: insects as indicators for conservation monitoring. Journal of Insect Conservation 1: 1–18.Google Scholar
  6. Calvo L. and Blake J. 1998. Bird diversity and abundance on two different shade coffee plantations in Guatemala. Birds Conservation International 8: 297–308.Google Scholar
  7. de la Maza Ramírez R. 1987. Mariposas Mexicanas: Guía para su Colecta y Determinación. Fondo de Cultura Económica. S.A. DE C.V., México, D.F.Google Scholar
  8. DeVries P.J. 1987. The Butterflies of Costa Rica and Their Natural History. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  9. DeVries P.J., Murray D. and Lande R. 1997. Species diversity in vertical, horizontal, and temporal dimensions of a fruit-feeding butterfly community in an Ecuadorian rainforest. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 62: 343–364.Google Scholar
  10. Dobson A.P., Rodriguez J.P., Roberts W.M. and Wilcove D.S. 1997. Geographic distribution of endangered species in the United States. Science 275: 550–553.Google Scholar
  11. Estrada A., Coates-Estrada S. and Merrit D. Jr 1997. Anthropogenic landscape changes and avian diversity at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Biodiversity and Conservation 6: 19–43.Google Scholar
  12. Greenberg R., Bichier P., Cruz Angon A. and Reitsma R. 1997a. Bird populations in shade and sun coffee plantations in Central Guatemala. Conservation Biology 11: 448–459.Google Scholar
  13. Greenberg R., Bichier P. and Sterling J. 1997b. Bird populations in rustic and planted shade coffee plantations of Eastern Chiapas, México. Biotropica 29: 501–514.Google Scholar
  14. Hamer K.C., Hill J.K., Lace L.A. and Largon A.M. 1997. Ecological and biogeographical effects of forest disturbance on tropical butterflies of Sumba, Indonesia. Journal of Biogeography 24: 67–75.Google Scholar
  15. Hill J.K., Hamer K.C., Lace L.A. and Banham W.M.T. 1995. Effects of selective logging on tropical forest butterflies on Buru, Indonesia. Journal of Applied Ecology 32: 754–760.Google Scholar
  16. Howard P.C., Viskanic P., Devenport T.R.B., Kigenyi F.W., Baltzer M., Dickinson C.J. et al. 1998. Complementarity and the use of indicator groups for reserve selection in Uganda. Nature 394: 472–475.Google Scholar
  17. Ibarra-NÚñez G. and Garcia-Ballinas J.A. 1998. Diversidad de tres familias de arañas tejedoras (Araneae: Araneidae, Tetragnathidae, Theridiiae) en cafetales del soconusco, Chiapas, Mexico. Folia Entomologica Mexicana 102: 11–20.Google Scholar
  18. Ibarra-NÚñez G., García Ballinas J.A. and Moreno-Próspero M.A. 1993. La comunidad de artrópodos de dos cafetales con diferentes prácticas agrícolas: El caso de los Hymenópteros ResÚmenes, XXVIII Congreso Nacional de Entomología, Sociedad Mexicana de Entomología, 23–26 May 1993. Universidad de las Américas, Cholula, Puebla, Mexico.Google Scholar
  19. Johnson M.D. 2000. Effects of shade-tree species and crop structure on the winter arthropod and bird communities in a Jamaican shade coffee plantation. Biotropica 32: 133–145.Google Scholar
  20. Kremen C. 1992. Assesing the indicator properties of species assemblages for natural areas monitoring. Ecological Applications 4: 407–422.Google Scholar
  21. Kremen C. 1994. Biological inventory using target taxa: a case study of the butterflies of Madagascar 4: 407–422.Google Scholar
  22. Lawton J.H., Bignell D.E., Bolton B., Bloemers G.F., Eggleton P., Hammond P.M. et al. 1998. Biodiversity inventories, indicator taxa and effects of habitat modification in tropical forest. Nature 391: 72–75.Google Scholar
  23. Magurran M. 1988. Ecological Diversity and its Measurements. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  24. Majer J.D. 1983. Ants: bioindicators of mine site rehabilitation, land use and conservation. Environmental Management 7: 375–383.Google Scholar
  25. Martin T.E. and Geupel G.R. 1993. Nest-monitoring plots: methods for locating nests and monitoring success. Journal of Field Ornithology 64: 507–514.Google Scholar
  26. Mas A.H. 1999. tButterfly diversity and the certification of shade coffee in Chiapas, Mexico, M.S. Thesis, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.Google Scholar
  27. Mas A.H. and Dietsch T.V. 2003. An index of management intensity for coffee agroecosystems to evaluate butterfly species richness. Ecological Applications (in press).Google Scholar
  28. Moguel P. and Toledo V.M. 1999. Biodiversity conservation in traditional coffee systems in Mexico. Conservation Biology 12: 1–11.Google Scholar
  29. Nestel D. and Dickschen F. 1990. The foraging kinetics of ground ant communities in different coffee agroecosystems. Oecologia 84: 58–63.Google Scholar
  30. Nichols J.D., Boulinier T., Hines J.E., Pollock K.H. and Sauer J.R. 1998. Inference methods for spatial variation in species richness and community composition when not all species are detected. Conservation Biology 12: 1390–1398.Google Scholar
  31. Noss R.F. 1990. Indicators for monitoring biodiversity: a hierarchical approach. Conservation Biology 4: 355–364.Google Scholar
  32. Oliver I. and Beattie A.J. 1993. A possible method for the rapid assessment of biodiversity. Conservation Biology7: 562–568.Google Scholar
  33. Perfecto I. and Snelling R. 1995. Biodiversity and the transformation of a tropical agroecosystem: ants in coffee plantations. Ecological Applications 5: 1084–1097.Google Scholar
  34. Perfecto I. and Vandermeer J.H. 1994. Understanding biodiversity loss in agroecosystems: reduction of ant diversity resulting from transformation of the coffee ecosystem in Costa Rica. Entomology (Trends in Agricultural Sciences) 2: 7–13.Google Scholar
  35. Perfecto I. and Vandermeer J.H. 2002. The quality of the agroecological matrix in a tropical montane landscape: ants in coffee plantations in southern Mexico. Conservation Biology 16: 174–182.Google Scholar
  36. Perfecto I., Rice R.A., Greenberg R. and Van der Voort M.E. 1996. Shade coffee: a disappearing refuge for biodiversity. BioScience 46: 598–608.Google Scholar
  37. Perfecto I., Vandermeer J.H., Hanson P. and Cartín V. 1997. Arthropod biodiversity loss and the transformation of a tropical agro-ecosystem. Biodiversity and Conservation 6: 935–945.Google Scholar
  38. Prendergast J.R. and Eversham B.C. 1997. Species richness covariance in higher taxa: empirical test of the biodiversity indicator concept. Ecogeography 20: 210–216.Google Scholar
  39. Prendergast J.R., Quinn R.M., Lawton J.H., Eversham B.C. and Gibbons D.W. 1993. Rare species: the coincidence of diversity hotspots and conservation strategies. Nature 365: 335–337.Google Scholar
  40. Rice R.A. 1996. The coffee environment of Northern Latin America: tradition and change. In: Rice R.A., Harris A.M. and McLean J. (eds), Proceedings from the First Sustainable Coffee Congress. Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, pp. 105–114.Google Scholar
  41. Rice R.A. 1997. The land use patterns and the history of coffee in eastern Chiapas, Mexico. Agriculture and Human Values 14: 127–143.Google Scholar
  42. Richter M. 1992. Landwirtschaftliche Schäden in verschiedenen Höhenstufen der Sierra Madre de Chiapas/Südmexiko. Patermann's Geographische Mitteilungen 136: 295–308.Google Scholar
  43. Ricketts T.H., Daily G.C., Ehrlich P.R. and Fay J.P. 2001. Countryside biogeography of moths in fragmented landscapes: biodiversity in native and agricultural habitats. Conservation Biology 15: 378–388.Google Scholar
  44. Ricketts T.H., Dinerstein E., Olson D.M. and Loucks C. 1999. Who's where in North America? BioScience 49: 369–381.Google Scholar
  45. Sparrow H.P., Sisk T.D., Ehrlich P.R. and Murphy D.D. 1994. Techniques and guidelines for monitoring Neotropical butterflies. Conservation Biology 8: 800–809.Google Scholar
  46. Welles J.M. 1990. Some indirect methods of estimating canopy structure. In: Norman J. and Goel N. (eds), Instrumentation for StudyingVegetation Canopies for Remote Sensing in Optical and Thermal Infraser Regions. Harwood Academic, London.Google Scholar
  47. Wunderle J. 1999. Avian distribution in Dominican shade coffee plantations: area and habitat relationships. Journal of Field Ornithology 70: 58–70.Google Scholar
  48. Wunderle J. and Latta S. 1996. Avian abundance in sun and shade coffee plantations and remnant pine forest in the Cordillera Central, Dominican Republic. Ornitologia Neotropical 7: 19–34.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivette Perfecto
    • 1
  • Alexandre Mas
    • 1
  • Thomas Dietsch
    • 1
  • John Vandermeer
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations