Shade-growing practices lessen the impact of coffee plantations on multiple dimensions of ant diversity.

Published online
27 May 2021
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Ibarra-Isassi, J. & Handa, I. T. & Arenas-Clavijo, A. & Escobar-Ramírez, S. & Armbrecht, I. & Lessard, J. P.
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Land use management influence changes in biodiversity beyond the targeted species. Management practices in coffee plantations have shifted from coffee growing below accompanying (shade) trees, to intensified monocultures in which coffee grows fully exposed to the sun. Anthropogenic disturbance causes changes in species composition relative to adjacent natural patches and reduces their biotic heterogeneity. Here, we assessed the impact of coffee plantation management practices on the taxonomical, phylogenetic and functional composition of ant communities, an ecologically dominant group and crucial biological pest controller in these agroecosystems. We hypothesized that shade-grown coffee plantations would harbour ant communities similar to those of nearby forest patches, but dissimilar to those of intensified monocultures. We surveyed ant diversity in eight shade-grown coffee farms, eight intensive coffee monocultures and eight forest patches. We used a combination of active and passive sampling methods over two field campaigns spanning 6 months. Our results support our hypothesis for all diversity dimensions. Additionally, ant communities in intensified monocultures were taxonomically and functionally, but not phylogenetically, more homogeneous than those found in forest patches and shade-grown plantations. Synthesis and applications. Our findings support the idea that practices in shade-grown coffee plantations buffer the impoverishment of multiple diversity dimensions after forest conversion. Additionally, we identified that leaf-litter depth and number of twigs mitigate ant diversity loss which, in turn, can favour the presence of potential biocontrol agents. By assessing and integrating multiple biodiversity dimensions into management strategies, farmers and interested parties can minimize future biodiversity and ecosystem service loss.

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