Fragmentation and Management of Ethiopian Moist Evergreen Forest Drive Compositional Shifts of Insect Communities Visiting Wild Arabica Coffee Flowers

Berecha, G. et al. | Environmental Management | 2014 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


Coffea arabica is an indigenous understorey shrub of the moist evergreen Afromontane forest of SW Ethiopia. Coffee cultivation here occurs under different forest management intensities, ranging from almost no intervention in the ‘forest coffee’ system to far-reaching interventions that include the removal of competing shrubs and selective thinning of the upper canopy in the ‘semi-forest coffee’ system. We investigated whether increasing forest management intensity and fragmentation result in impacts upon potential coffee pollination services through examining shifts in insect communities that visit coffee flowers. Overall, we netted 2,976 insect individuals on C. arabica flowers, belonging to sixteen taxonomic groups, comprising 10 insect orders. Taxonomic richness of the flower-visiting insects significantly decreased and pollinator community changed with increasing forest management intensity and fragmentation. The relative abundance of honey bees significantly increased with increasing forest management intensity and fragmentation, likely resulting from the introduction of bee hives in the most intensively managed forests. The impoverishment of the insect communities through increased forest management intensity and fragmentation potentially decreases the resilience of the coffee production system as pollination increasingly relies on honey bees alone. This may negatively affect coffee productivity in the long term as global pollination services by managed honey bees are expected to decline under current climate change scenarios. Coffee agroforestry management practices should urgently integrate pollinator conservation measures.