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Organic, shade grown cacao good for birds

Organic, shade grown cacao good for birds

Organic, shade grown cacao good for birds
Shade grown cacao supports more bird species than conventional crops
August 9, 2007

Bird diversity in cacao farms in Panama is considerably higher when crops are grown in the shade of canopy trees, reports a study published earlier this year in Biodiversity Conservation. The research has implications for biodiversity conservation and the sustainability of cacao plantations.

Comparing the bird diversity and community structure in organic cacao farms and nearby forest fragments in mainland areas of Bocas del Toro Province in Panama, researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Smithsonian found that “cacao farms were rich in canopy and edge species such as tanagers, flycatchers and migratory warblers, but understory insectivores were nearly absent from cacao farms.”

Overall, the researchers recorded 234 bird species, of which 102 species were observed in both cacao and forest fragments, 86 were seen only in cacao farms, and 46 were spotted only in forest fragments. Among 27 migratory species, 18 were observed only in cacao farms, two were recorded only in forest, and seven species were encountered in both habitats.

Cacao pods

In cacao farms, the extent of canopy cover was the most important determinant of bird diversity.

“In cacao farms, the diversity of birds was significantly greater where there was less intensive management of the canopy shade trees,” wrote the researchers. “Our study shows that shaded cacao farms in western Panama provide habitat for a wide variety of resident and migratory bird species.”

The findings lend support to the notion that shade-grown cacao has higher conservation value than conventionally grown cacao and other forms of agriculture in the region.

“Considering current land use trends in the region, we suggest that action must be taken to prevent conversion away from shaded cacao farms to land uses with lower biodiversity conservation value.

CITATION: Sunshine A. Van Bael, Peter Bichier, Isis Ochoa and Russell Greenberg (2007). Bird diversity in cacao farms and forest fragments of western Panama. Biodivers Conserv (2007) 16:2245—2256 DOI 10.1007/s10531-007-9193-3

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