Multispecies agro-forestry is generally lauded for providing ecosystem services, especially in tropical environments. Avian communities contribute to services such as biodiversity and pest management. Characterizing and evaluating avian community composition in similar cropping systems will help optimize management for ecosystem services. We examined the relationship between cropping system vegetation and avian communities in four shaded agro-forestry systems common to the Limón province of Costa Rica: abandoned and managed systems of cacao, cacao with banana, and banana. During two field seasons, we detected 2605 birds from 106 species and identified 2791 trees and shrubs from 62 morphospecies. We compared vegetation and avian species richness across systems with mixed-effects linear models. Canopy, understory, and groundcover vegetation differed among agro-forestry systems. More ground- and understory-foraging forest species were detected in agro-forestry systems lacking banana, whereas richness of agricultural generalist species was highest in systems with banana. Richness of understory- and ground-foraging species correlated with understory tree species richness and leaf litter. Our results indicate that shaded cacao and banana systems can have similar canopy-foraging species richness that includes both agricultural and woodland generalist species, but that interspersing banana with cacao can adversely influence understory forest bird community composition. Agro-forests with diverse understory vegetation support more understory-foraging bird species that have proven valuable in pest management.
Abstract in Spanish is available at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/loi/btp.