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The power of the crop: How coffee farms could enhance mammal biodiversity

From the March 2012 issue.

Amanda Caudill, a Doctoral student from the University of Rhode Island, is studying mammal diversity at coffee plantations.

Amanda Caudill mammal diversity at coffee plantationsDoctoral student Amanda Caudill says coffee is one crop that shows great promise in agroforestry.

“The way in which coffee is grown and managed can have a huge effect on biodiversity and the types of mammals it attracts,” Caudill says, a student from the University of Rhode Island in the United States. “The main point of difference could be the varying degrees of shade tree species planted within the coffee, which is known as shade coffee or sun coffee.”
Caudill says the underlying question would be: ‘How do we enhance coffee habitat for mammals?’

“We know that mammals are abundant in rainforests, but we don’t know what type of coffee habitats would be more hospitable for them,” she says. “Mammals are attracted to rainforests because they have all the resources that they need there, but if they’re travelling through coffee plantations with more tree diversity or food available, they would then stay in coffee more, which could be what we’re seeing – but it’s too early in the research to tell.”

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