Comparing tree diversity in conventional and organic shade grown coffee systems to forest ecosystems: Discussing the economic, social and environmental value of preserving tree species.
In the fall of 2012, I traveled to Costa Rica to participate in a research based study abroad program with the School for Field Studies (SFS). As an SFS semester student, I worked with Dr. Achim Häger and a team of five other students on a Directed Research (DR) project. Findings during DR at SFS contribute to a “Five-year Research Plan” designed to help community members and stakeholders confront local environmental issues. At the end of the semester, I recognized the significance of our DR project and felt the need to continue research and share my observations with a larger university audience. In this study we examined the effects of land use on tree species diversity by comparing three secondary forests with fourteen conventionally and organically managed coffee agroforestry farms in Costa Rica’s central valley. Our aim was to establish a diversity index for three important land use categories which are as follows: forest, organically managed coffee agroforestry and conventionally managed coffee agroforestry. We found forest ecosystems support significantly greater tree species per hectare than agroforestry systems and that organic management does not significantly increase tree species diversity in coffee agroforestry. With our data, resource managers can make more accurate land use decisions based on the number of tree species supported in each system.