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Review: Biodiversity Conservation in Traditional Coffee Systems of Mexico

Patricia Moguel and Victor M. Toledo
Conservation Biology
Vol. 13, No. 1 (Feb., 1999), pp. 11-21
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2641560
Page Count: 11
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Review: Biodiversity Conservation in Traditional Coffee Systems of Mexico
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Abstract

In Mexico, coffee is cultivated on the coastal slopes of the central and southern parts of the country in areas where two or more types of vegetation make contact. Based on management level and vegetational and structural complexity, it is possible to distinguish five main coffee production systems in Mexico: two kinds of traditional shaded agroforests (with native trees), one commercially oriented polyspecific shaded system, and two "modern" systems (shaded and unshaded monocultures). Traditional shaded coffee is cultivated principally by small-scale, community-based growers, most of whom belong to some indigenous culture group. Through an exhaustive review of the literature, we found that traditional shaded coffee plantations are important repositories of biological richness for groups such as trees and epiphytes, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and arthropods. We evaluated the conservation role of these traditional shaded systems by estimating the percentage of the whole coffee area under traditional management, by reviewing the ecological and geographical distribution of coffee areas in Mexico, and by connecting the geographical distribution of these coffee areas with recognized centers of species richness and endemism. The assesment revealed that in Mexico, coffee fields are located in a biogeographically and ecologically strategic elevational belt that is an area of overlap between the tropical and temperate elements and of contact among the four main types of Mexican forests. We also found that between 60% and 70% of these coffee areas are under traditional management and that at least 14 of 155 priority regions selected by experts as having high numbers of species and endemics overlap with or are near traditional coffee-growing areas.

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