Tradeoffs and synergies among ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, and food security in coffee agroforestry
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
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Isabella Mayorga and Ivette Perfecto, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Jose Luiz Vargas de Mendonça, Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Zachary Hajian-Forooshani and John H. Vandermeer, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Javier Lugo Pérez, Department of Natural Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, Utuado, Puerto Rico
School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Background/Question/Methods Concerns over the capacity of the world’s existing agricultural land to provide food for the global population under climate change and continued biodiversity loss have set the stage for a prevailing narrative of inherent tradeoffs with agricultural production. However, a strict focus on increasing production can undermine attempts to build more sustainable and equitable food systems. Coffee, a major export crop of tropical countries, offers a unique opportunity to examine how management practices can drive a variety of outcomes for food security, ecosystem services, and biodiversity conservation. Our study examined this intersection to identify tradeoffs and synergies using compiled data from Puerto Rico. At the island level, we analyzed data on coffee yield and area sown under shade or sun management. At the farm level, we analyzed management variables (percent shade cover, maximum canopy height, ground cover, and crop richness), non-provisioning ecosystem service variables (total farm carbon storage, soil organic carbon storage, coffee plant carbon biomass, and hurricane resistance and resilience), and biodiversity variables (ant, bird, and lizard richness and abundance). Results/Conclusions At the island level, we found that area sown was the most significant predictor of yield, suggesting no obvious tradeoff between yield and shade in coffee farms. At the farm level, canopy cover was negatively correlated with ground cover and positively correlated with crop richness, suggesting a synergy between agroforestry and food security. We detected mostly synergies resulting from agroforestry management and no tradeoffs among ecosystem services and biodiversity. Shade canopy cover significantly increased total carbon storage, coffee plant biomass, hurricane resistance and bird species richness. Shade canopy height had a similar positive effect on total farm carbon storage while crop richness had a positive effect on farm resilience following Hurricane Maria. Ground cover was positively associated with soil carbon storage and pest-controlling lizard abundance. Tradeoffs related to agroforestry management included an inverse relationship between ground cover and hurricane resistance, and greater dominance of an invasive ant species in farms with higher shade canopies. We discuss implications of practicing agroforestry principles in this smallholder coffee system and highlight opportunities for maximizing biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, and food security.