Beneath The Shade: More To Coffee Than Meets the Eye
By Andrew Forbes,
Upper Mississippi River/Great Lakes Region Joint Venture
Tom Will delivered a brown bag session on the Regional Office’s trial transition to bird friendly coffee, the bird coffee connection and why it’s a hot topic for the Migratory Bird program. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
The theme of this year’s International Migratory Bird Day celebration is “Life Cycles of Migratory Birds: Conservation Across the Americas”. This highlights the need to conserve migratory birds throughout their entire life cycle: on their summer breeding grounds, wintering grounds, and during migration when many species undertake incredible journeys spanning sometimes thousands of miles. Many people are surprised to hear that approximately half of “our” more common Midwestern breeding songbird species, such as Wood Thrush, American Redstart, and Baltimore Oriole actually spend up to eight months of the year either on their wintering grounds in Central and South America, or in transit between here and there, during migration.
Birds face a multitude of threats to their existence throughout their annual life cycle. However, one common, universally recognized threat at every stop along a bird’s yearly journey is habitat destruction. Many are surprised to hear that one of the major drivers of habitat loss on the wintering grounds for many of our favorite birds lies within the cup of coffee that many of us drink every day.
Over the last few decades, coffee production in central and South America has shifted from traditional “shade” varieties of coffee, which are grown underneath a canopy of tropical forest, to “sun” varieties of coffee, which require the conversion of tropical forest to a more row-crop setting, where coffee plants are grown in full sun, using a broad spectrum of pesticides and fertilizers. The effects of this large-scale coffee conversion on birds (and other resident wildlife and plants) is obvious – without suitable winter habitat, birds must move into increasingly small forest fragments. At a minimum, those do not provide them with an ideal place to spend the winter and return to the breeding grounds in the Midwest in top condition for raising the next generation of young.
In support of the IMBD 2013 festivities, the “Coffee Club” at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Office served bird-friendly-certified, shade-grown coffee for the latter half of April, and is exploring the feasibility of making a permanent change to a shade-grown variety. Tom Will, from the Migratory Bird Program, delivered a "Brown Bag" presentation on shade-grown coffee and its ecological benefits.
For more information on IMBD, or on shade-grown coffee, visit www.birdday.org or http://www.fws.gov/birds/documents/HR-ShadeCoffee.pdf