Coffee growing: More biodiversity, better harvest
Bees, birds and bats make a huge contribution to the high yields produced by coffee farmers around Mount Kilimanjaro — an example of how biodiversity can pay off. This effect has been described as result of a study now published, conducted by tropical ecologists.
Bees, birds and bats make a huge contribution to the high yields produced by coffee farmers around Mount Kilimanjaro – an example of how biodiversity can pay off. This effect has been described as result of a study now published in the „Proceedings of the Royal Society B“. It has been conducted by tropical ecologists of the University Wrzburg Biocenter, jointly with colleagues from the LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F, Frankfurt/Main) and the Institute for experimental Ecology of the University of Ulm.A large amount of coffee is grown on Kilimanjaro, the East African massif almost 6000 meters high. The most traditional form of cultivation can be found in the gardens of the Chagga people. Hhere the sun-shy coffee trees and many other crop plants thrive in the shade of banana trees and other tall trees. However, the largest part of the coffee is grown on plantations. Usually, the plantations still feature a large number of shade trees. But these are progressively being chopped down because of the increasing replacement of “conventional coffee varieties, which rely on shade, by varieties that tolerate lots of sun and are more resistant to fungi,” explains Professor Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, a tropical ecologist at the University of Wrzburg’s Biocenter. This crop intensification is expected to result in higher yields. The plantation harvests might however stagnate: If there are only few shade trees left, the habitat may become unsuitable for the animal species that pollinate the coffee, eat pests, and thereby help to improve the yield.Teamwork on the slopes of Mount KilimanjaroSteffan-Dewenter and his doctoral student Alice Classen therefore wanted to understand how bees, birds, bats and other animals contribute to pollination and to biological pest control in the coffee fields. …
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