island conservation native bird

Native Species Safeguard Your Cup of Coffee

A recent study in Ecology Letters found that in Costa Rica, native vegetation attracts pest-eating birds to plantations.

Pests are a pervasive and expensive problem for farmers. Invasive insects are detrimental to crop yields around the world. The Borer Beetle, originally from Africa, is an invasive pest wreaking havoc on Costa Rica plantations. The beetle is the only insect threatening the coffee bean plants, and causes about $500 million in damage each year.

But exciting new research by Stanford biologists has yielded promising findings for pest management. Researchers wanted to know what happens when patches of rainforest are scattered throughout coffee plantations in Costa Rica. They found that the presence of native vegetation attracts native birds into the plantation. This turns out to be a game-changer for farmers, because the native birds love to eat the borer beetles that are destroying coffee crops. Lead author of the study Daniel Karp comments,

There’s lots of unrealized value in these small patches of rainforest. This looks like a sustainable, win-win opportunity for pest management.

Island Conservation Science Coffee Pest Research by Stanford

Exclosure experiments demonstrate that birds consume damaging coffee pests in Costa Rica. By Daniel Karp

The financial savings achieved by this natural form of pest management are impressive. Coffee bean crop loss was cut in half thanks to five bird species drawn to the plantations by the patches of native vegetation.  According to Karp,

Depending on the season, the birds provide $75 to $310 increases in yield per hectare of farmland.

Island Conservation Yellow Warbler Pest-eating Bird

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia), a pest-eating bird that frequents coffee plantations.

The researchers plan to generalize the results so that conservationists, farmers, land managers and governments can estimate the potential gains of integrating native plants into crop fields. The research findings are promising, with substantial potential gains for native species and farmers alike.

Featured photo: Yellow Warbler. Skip Russell
Photos and captions from the original article: Stanford News

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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