Coffee is the most important tropical commodity and the forest-like characteristics of the farm create a unique opportunity to combine agricultural production with biodiversity conservation. There is abundant literature on the conservation value of coffee farms internationally, but there has been little research on this topic in Africa. The Ethiopian shade coffee is documented to be avian-friendly. Its contribution to mammal conservation with respect to the management intensity, however, remains unstudied.
We assessed the effect of shade coffee management systems on medium and large mammal richness, diversity, detection rate, and community composition in the Belete-Gera Forest Priority Area, Southwest Ethiopia. We sampled mammals in three shade coffee management systems and nearby moist evergreen Afromontane forest using 30 infrared camera traps at 90 stations for a total of 4282 camera trap days of sampling effort from January 2017 up to March 2018, to evaluate the shade coffee management systems of the area.
Shannon-Wiener diversity index was used for diversity analysis and compared using a linear model. The patterns of overall terrestrial mammalian detection rate were compared using generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) for independent detection count data with Poisson errors. We used non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) to show the mammalian community composition in each habitat. We recorded 8818 digital videos and identified 23 species of medium and large-sized mammals using camera traps. We found that the overall species richness, diversity, and detection rate of mammals did not differ among traditional shade coffee management systems and the natural forest.
However, signiﬁcantly differ from the intensive plantation coffee system. The community composition of mammals changes with a gradient of management intensity. The composition of undisturbed forest loving mammals are greater in natural forest and high in semi-forest coffee, less in semi-plantation, and very low in plantation coffee management systems. Our results ultimately show that traditionally managed shade coffee farms shelter diverse communities of mammalian density like the natural forest but not replace it while the intensified plantation coffee negatively affect mammalian diversity and alters the community composition.
Therefore, supporting and certifying the traditional shade coffee management practice as an alternative approach should be considered as the best strategy for medium and large mammalian species conservation than intensifying shade coffee systems of the area.