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Wild coffee management and plant diversity in the montane rainforest of southwestern Ethiopia

Coffea arabica occurs naturally in the montane rainforests of Ethiopia, but large areas of these unique forests have been converted to other land-uses. In the remaining forest, wild coffee is managed and harvested with increasing intensity because of rising coffee prices in the world market. This study evaluated the impact of coffee management on wild coffee populations and the forest vegetation as a basis for conservation planning in southwestern Ethiopia. Vegetation surveys and yield assessments were carried out in unmanaged natural forest and in managed semi-forest coffee (SFC) systems. Analyses show that wild coffee density and coffee yields were low in natural forest (max. 15 kg / ha / year). In SFC systems, 30% of the canopy trees and most undergrowth vegetation were removed. This stimulated wild coffee growth and strongly enhanced yields (max. 54 kg / ha / year), but severely disturbed forest structure. Species richness increased by 26% because of an increase in species of ruderal and secondary vegetation; however, species richness and abundance of typical forest species declined. Conservation of the natural forest therefore requires the control of wild coffee management. Wild coffee certification is discussed as one tool to reconcile conservation measures and the interests of local farmers.

Christine B. Schmitt, Feyera Senbeta, Manfred Denich, Helmut Preisinger and Hans Juergen Boehmer
African Journal of Ecology