The World Agroforestry Centre has highlighted a study by researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK that found that wild bats are flourishing in shade-grown coffee farms in the Western Ghats of India.
Despite harbouring a wide variety of plants and animals, the Western Ghats has seen large-scale development, including agriculture, which has impacted heavily on wildlife. Although other studies have shown that shade-grown coffee provides a good habitat for birds and bats in the Americas this is the first major study on bats and coffee in Asia. It demonstrates how “principles of agroforestry, or mixing agriculture and natural habitats, can help preserve wildlife and function as a refuge in a changing landscape,” says an article in Take Part.
According to the researchers, bats provide important pest control (in the US it is estimated they save the agricultural industry US$3 billion each year) and they are excellent bio-indicators.
Naturally, coffee grows under the canopy of trees, but today only about 25 per cent of coffee is grown under a full or partial canopy, with 40 per cent grown under full sun. It seems there are increasing moves to once again plant coffee under shade. This has many benefits, including helping coffee plants cope with increasing temperatures and extreme weather events brought about by climate change.