It's better in the shade

As the popularity of coffee grows, a niche market for shade grown coffee has emerged. Numerous certification programs now exist to verify shade coffee is grown on farms that protect biodiversity, leaving more plants intact than farming for sun-favoring varieties of coffee. In Alexandre Mas and Thomas Dietsch's* paper, (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) "Linking shade coffee certification to biodiversity conservation: butterflies and birds in Chiapas, Mexico," the researchers provide the first direct insight into the effectiveness of shade grown coffee certification as a conservation tool. They compare certification guidelines with the growing practices for shade coffee, evaluating the benefits from various cultivation practices for biodiversity conservation. The study appears in the June 2004 edition of the Ecological Society of America's journal Ecological Applications.

Mas and Dietsch examined publicly available criteria for shade-grown coffee, which included two programs currently in use: ECO-OK, now referred to as sustainable coffee certified by Rainforest Alliance, and Bird Friendly , certified by Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC); and several programs never implemented: Mexican Shade Coffee, Mexican Shade Coffee PLUS, and a draft from the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Traveling to Chiapas, Mexico the pair studied farming practices from traditional rustic management to a more intensive system shaded with only one tree species. They chose the area in part because, "Mexico produces more certified organic coffee than any other country and, while not the focus of this study, organic coffee production techniques, which prohibit agro-chemical use, provide an important complement to management of the shade overstory in conserving biodiversity."

The rustic system contained a higher diversity of butterfly species and birds more similar to those found in nearby forests. This was the only management system certified by the S

Contact: Annie Drinkard
Ecological Society of America

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