March 31, 2014

The intersection of coffee, communities, and conservation in Latin America

The fourth and final event in this year’s Environmental Lecture Series will be a presentation by Dr. Amanda Rodewald from Cornell University. That will be Thursday, Apr. 3 at 7:30 pm in the Ronk Lecture Hall, COE.

In the broadest sense, Dr. Rodewald’s research program seeks to understand how human activities influence ecological systems and the services they provide. Her current study systems are deciduous forests of eastern and central U.S. (urban, agricultural, and managed forest landscapes) and montane forests of Central and South America.

The coffee-growing regions of the Central and South American Highlands are intensively used and the deteriorating quality of these forests threatens the ecosystem services upon which human communities rely. The reality is that little forest completely escapes pressure from cultivation or grazing. There is a need to identify ways that human activities can be made more compatible with conservation. Shade-grown coffee farms are especially well suited to simultaneously meet a variety of economic, social and ecological needs. They provide a variety of forest products (e.g., coffee, fruits, firewood, lumber, and medicines), while at the same time maintain forest cover, support biodiversity, and reduce erosion and chemical use compared to other intensive agricultural systems, such as sun coffee and pasture for cattle grazing.

Perhaps no other group better highlights the positive role that shade-coffee can play in conservation than Neotropical migratory birds, which heavily use shade-coffee farms. In this talk, Rodewald will discuss how shade-coffee and other agroforestry practices can support bird conservation, ecosystem protection and ultimately human communities in Latin America.