Rainforests are more than a hill of beans

Coffee plantArriving at my doorstep sometime within the last few weeks was the latest volume of the Journal of Conservation Biology.  After shuffling it around from room to room, I finally peered inside and was struck by a new publication addressing the issues surrounding sun grown coffee.  I thought this was a subject that had already been settled, and one in which coffee drinkers worldwide should be thoroughly familiar, but perhaps I was wrong.

I didn’t consider myself sheltered, but after reading the manuscript I discovered that there was actually a movement working to convince the masses that coffee farms were actually vehicles for preserving rainforest flora and fauna.  The exact quote stated, “Coffee agroecosystems have received substantial attention for their apparent capacity to protect biodiversity.”  Thus, I seem to have underestimated coffee bean denial and realized that we still need to disseminate data showing the affect of forest clearing on species diversity.

The publication continued to inform that although there are more than 100 papers on the subject, none adequately compared biodiversity and coffee system management intensity.  After data collection, site classification, and vegetation studies, etc., the authors quantitatively concluded what we have declared all along, that a decline in biodiversity is correlated to coffee management intensification; sun grown coffee farms representing the least amount of biodiversity and shade grown or rustic coffee farms having the most diversity. Additionally, the environmentally friendly shade-coffee system was still guilty of decreasing the presence of forest species as harvesting and management on the rainforest floor restrain regeneration of native plant species.

Yes, I am a realist and understand that coffee will continue to be the breakfast of champions, but all I am looking for is a little consumer responsibility and initiative.  Let’s band together and exercise our right to only buy sustainable products and increase the demand for shade-grown coffee.

If the pharmaceutical companies are betting future profits and products on natural rainforest derivatives, maybe we should also see the benefits of maintaining biodiversity.

Reference: Biodiversity Loss in Latin American Coffee Landscapes: Review of the Evidence on Ants, Birds, and Trees. Conservation Biology. 2008.

About The Author

Scott serves as Director of Development & Communications for Audubon Canyon Ranch (focusing on preservation, education and conservation science) and has almost fifteen years of experience spanning for-profit and nonprofit sectors in biotech, wildlife conservation and management, communications, and philanthropy. In addition to a strong track record in organizational growth and leadership, he is the founder of Urban Bird Foundation and Burrowing Owl Conservation Network, and presided over ECHO Fund, a coastal protection and restoration organization, as President for four years. Scott holds an M.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Development and Policy, degrees in Micro & Molecular Biology and Environmental Sciences, and has complemented his studies with a Master's certificate in Environmental Resource Management.

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