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Keywords:

  • coffee;
  • Ethiopia;
  • Hemileia vastatrix ;
  • isolation gradient;
  • landscape ecology;
  • moist afromontane forests;
  • patch size

Abstract

Shaded coffee has been highlighted for its potential to conserve biodiversity, and thus perhaps also a diversity of natural enemies that could control pest organisms. In southwestern Ethiopia, coffee is grown in shade both in contiguous forests and in forest patches with native trees surrounded by open fields. We hypothesized that coffee grown in contiguous forests, which is the natural habitat for coffee (Coffea arabica) and its interacting organisms, would have less pest damage due to high protection by natural enemies. We surveyed pests on coffee plants in plots within contiguous forests (10 sites) and in forest patches (21 sites). In general, the variation in number of damaged or attacked leaves by individual insect or fungal pests was larger between plants than between plots, which suggests that very local conditions or processes are important. The spatial signals were generally weak. Coffee rust and coffee blotch miner tended to have lower infestation rates in accordance with our hypothesis, while fruit flies in ripe berries were more abundant in forest patches closer to contiguous forest. Based on interviews, olive baboons showed a clear dependency on contiguous forest habitat and were regarded as a problem only in contiguous forests and forest patches close to contiguous forests. In conclusion, we found no support for a generally stronger top-down control on coffee pests in sites within, or with connectivity to, contiguous moist afromontane forests in the native range of coffee.