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Conserv Biol. 2008 Oct;22(5):1177-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00968.x.

Ecological and economic services provided by birds on Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee farms.

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1
Department of Wildlife, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA 95521, USA. jlkellermann@gmail.com

Abstract

Coffee farms can support significant biodiversity, yet intensification of farming practices is degrading agricultural habitats and compromising ecosystem services such as biological pest control. The coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei) is the world's primary coffee pest. Researchers have demonstrated that birds reduce insect abundance on coffee farms but have not documented avian control of the berry borer or quantified avian benefits to crop yield or farm income. We conducted a bird-exclosure experiment on coffee farms in the Blue Mountains, Jamaica, to measure avian pest control of berry borers, identify potential predator species, associate predator abundance and borer reductions with vegetation complexity, and quantify resulting increases in coffee yield. Coffee plants excluded from foraging birds had significantly higher borer infestation, more borer broods, and greater berry damage than control plants. We identified 17 potential predator species (73% were wintering Neotropical migrants), and 3 primary species composed 67% of migrant detections. Average relative bird abundance and diversity and relative resident predator abundance increased with greater shade-tree cover. Although migrant predators overall did not respond to vegetation complexity variables, the 3 primary species increased with proximity to noncoffee habitat patches. Lower infestation on control plants was correlated with higher total bird abundance, but not with predator abundance or vegetation complexity. Infestation of fruit was 1-14% lower on control plants, resulting in a greater quantity of saleable fruits that had a market value of US$44-$105/ha in 2005/2006. Landscape heterogeneity in this region may allow mobile predators to provide pest control broadly, despite localized farming intensities. These results provide the first evidence that birds control coffee berry borers and thus increase coffee yield and farm income, a potentially important conservation incentive for producers.

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