Science - April 27, 2006

Coffee plantations good for nature

If coffee plantations are set up in the traditional way, in a forest environment with a lot of shadow, they offer good living conditions for hummingbirds, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, doves and songbirds.

Euridice Leyequién Abarca devoted her PhD research to the subject, and concluded that remote sensing is a good way to monitor the biodiversity in the plantations. The technology can be used to determine the composition of a landscape and whether a particular landscape forms a suitable habitat for birds and other animals.

Abarca did her fieldwork in the mountainous state of Puebla in Mexico, where the traditional coffee plantations fulfil various functions. The vegetation in the plantations forms a carbon sink worth 1.2 million dollars in carbon credits, and small-scale indigenous farmers usually manage the plantations. The different forms of use should be taken into account for nature management and monitoring says Abarca. / MW

Dr Euridice Leyequién Abarca received her PhD on 21 April. Her supervisors were Professor Antoine Cleef, chair of Tropical Vegetation and Mapping, and Professor Andrew Skidmore, Chair of Resource Ecology.

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