Coffee farm enriched by forest ecosystem services

WASHINGTON, DC, August 4, 2004 (ENS): The pollination "services" of the surrounding tropical forest contributed seven percent of the annual income of one Costa Rican coffee farm, according to a new study appearing Monday in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
The study is the first to quantify in such detail the economic value of pollination services from tropical forests.

It shows that there are "compelling economic reasons for conserving native ecosystems," said Taylor Ricketts, principle author of the study and director of WWF's Conservation Science Program.

"Because the benefits we derive from ecosystems are difficult to quantify, they are often assumed to be worthless," Ricketts said. "Yet, we found that without this forest, the coffee plantation would lose about $60,000 in income from the diminished pollination alone."

The research team investigated pollination on coffee plants at three distances from the forest - near (330 feet), intermediate (one half mile), and far (just under a mile).

The researchers found the areas of the coffee farm closest to the forest experienced more pollination by wild bees.

The increased pollination boosted coffee yields and decreased the number of deformed beans, compared to the plants farthest from the forest.

"Our numbers are very conservative because we just looked at one ecosystem service - pollination - on one farm," said Paul Ehrlich, a co-author and professor of population studies at Stanford University. "If we quantified other ecosystem services like water purification, and the value of pollination to other neighboring farms, the value of this forest would be even greater."

The study suggests the value of tropical forest is greater than other land uses for which forests are often destroyed.

Cattle pasture, for example, would yield approximately $24,000 a year, less than half of what pollination services provides to the coffee plantation.

"The fact that pollination services alone are so valuable to an individual farm demonstrates how conservation is compatible with economic development," Ricketts said. "Protecting natural ecosystems can benefit both biodiversity and local people."

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