Biodiversity loss in Latin American coffee landscapes: review of the evidence on ants, birds, and trees

Conserv Biol. 2008 Oct;22(5):1093-1105. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01029.x.


Studies have documented biodiversity losses due to intensification of coffee management (reduction in canopy richness and complexity). Nevertheless, questions remain regarding relative sensitivity of different taxa, habitat specialists, and functional groups, and whether implications for biodiversity conservation vary across regions.We quantitatively reviewed data from ant, bird, and tree biodiversity studies in coffee agroecosystems to address the following questions: Does species richness decline with intensification or with individual vegetation characteristics? Are there significant losses of species richness in coffee-management systems compared with forests? Is species loss greater for forest species or for particular functional groups?and Are ants or birds more strongly affected by intensification? Across studies, ant and bird richness declined with management intensification and with changes in vegetation. Species richness of all ants and birds and of forest ant and bird species was lower in most coffee agroecosystems than in forests, but rustic coffee (grown under native forest canopies) had equal or greater ant and bird richness than nearby forests. Sun coffee(grown without canopy trees) sustained the highest species losses, and species loss of forest ant, bird, and tree species increased with management intensity. Losses of ant and bird species were similar, although losses of forest ants were more drastic in rustic coffee. Richness of migratory birds and of birds that forage across vegetation strata was less affected by intensification than richness of resident, canopy, and understory bird species. Rustic farms protected more species than other coffee systems, and loss of species depended greatly on habitat specialization and functional traits. We recommend that forest be protected, rustic coffee be promoted,and intensive coffee farms be restored by augmenting native tree density and richness and allowing growth of epiphytes. We also recommend that future research focus on potential trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and farmer livelihoods stemming from coffee production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Biodiversity*
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Coffee*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Latin America
  • Trees / physiology*


  • Coffee