Connecting sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation: Does shade coffee provide habitat for mammals?

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Shade coffee systems provide a refuge for biodiversity; however, research has been dominated by bird and insect studies with few studies that have focused on mammals living within coffee-dominated landscapes. Relative to other taxa studied, only 5% of the articles published on coffee and biodiversity pertain to mammals. We surveyed non-volant mammals, with an emphasis on small mammals, in 3 coffee-forest landscapes in Costa Rica with a particular focus on forest, shade coffee, and sun coffee habitats. Each of the 3 sites contained a 500-. ×. 500-m trap grid that was sampled in 4 sessions, totaling 46 sampling nights per site. This novel approach allowed us to compare mammal abundance and richness on both a plot level and meso-landscape scale (radius 25, 50, 100, 150, 200. m). We made 976 captures (501 individuals) and detected 17 small and medium mammal species during the seven-month study period. The abundance and richness of small non-volant mammals found in the shade coffee was not significantly different that of forest habitats embedded and adjacent to coffee. Both forest and shade coffee had significantly more species and higher abundances than sun coffee habitats. Within habitats, at the plot level, higher amounts of canopy cover and lower strata vegetation (i.e., weeds, grasses, plants, and understory shrubs from 5. cm-1. m tall) significantly increased small mammal abundance and richness. Within coffee habitats (sun and shade), greater amounts of canopy cover were significantly associated with higher small mammal abundance and richness. At the meso-landscape scale, small mammal density and richness significantly decreased with increasing proportion of sun coffee within the landscape and increased as the amount of shade coffee increased. Furthermore, small mammals thrived in areas adjacent to forest patches and as the proportion of forested areas within the landscape increased. Our study indicates that while there is no substitute for native forest, shade coffee provides habitat for small non-volant mammals, particularly in comparison to sun coffee. Based on our findings, we recommend including shade trees, maintaining high amounts of canopy cover, and retaining lower strata vegetation (5. cm-1. m) within coffee farms. We also recommend preserving or reestablishing forested areas embedded within the coffee landscape to enhance small mammal diversity. Shade coffee shows promise as a conservation strategy to promote wildlife conservation and protect mammalian biodiversity.

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Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment