Trees, Not Just Birds, Have It Made in the Shade

04-01-2009 // Hannah Schardt

COFFEE? Make it shade grown, please. Scientists have long known that growing coffee beneath the canopies of large trees, rather than on open sun-grown plantations, creates habitat for local bird populations. Now University of Michigan researchers have learned that shade coffee farms also maintain genetic diversity among native trees. Through genetic analysis, the study found that native trees grown on coffee farms—where they are allowed to thrive in order to prevent soil erosion—are far more genetically diverse than those growing in nearby forests. Researchers attribute the increased diversity to the fact that larger bird species thrive in shade grown coffee farms and more widely traveled, thus spreading seeds farther than those that live primarily in forests.

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