Effects of shade, altitude and management on multiple ecosystem services in coffee agroecosystems
European Journal of Agronomy 82, 308-319. (Papers in refeered scientific journals)
Agroforestry systems provide diverse ecosystem services that contribute to farmer livelihoods and the conservation of natural resources. Despite these known benefits, there is still limited understanding on how shade trees affect the provision of multiple ecosystem services at the same time and the potential trade-offs or synergies among them. To fill this knowledge gap, we quantified four major ecosystem services (regulation of pests and diseases; provisioning of agroforestry products; maintenance of soil fertility; and carbon sequestration) in 69 coffee agroecosystems belonging to smallholder farmers under a range of altitudes (as representative of environmental conditions) and management conditions, in the region of Turrialba, Costa Rica. We first analyzed the individual effects of altitude, types of shade and management intensity and their interactions on the provision of ecosystem services. In order to identify potential trade-offs and synergies, we then analyzed bivariate relationships between different ecosystem services, and between individual ecosystem services and plant biodiversity. We also explored which types of shade provided better levels of ecosystem services. The effectiveness of different types of shade in providing ecosystem services depended on their interactions with altitude and coffee management, with different ecosystem services responding differently to these factors. No trade-offs were found among the different ecosystem services studied or between ecosystem services and biodiversity, suggesting that it is possible to increase the provision of multiple ecosystem services at the same time. Overall, both low and highly diversified coffee agroforestry systems had better ability to provide ecosystem services than coffee monocultures in full sun. Based on our findings, we suggest that coffee agroforestry systems should be designed with diversified, productive shade canopies and managed with a medium intensity of cropping practices, with the aim of ensuring the continued provision of multiple ecosystem services.