Article III. Integrating decision-maker preferences and ecosystem services of coffee agroforestry systems within the Volcánica Central-Talamanca Biological Corridor, Costa Rica
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While forests often provide the most benefit for biodiversity conservation at a landscape scale, agroforestry systems can provide supplementary habitat for some species, reduce deforestation, and create a more permeable matrix when compared to other land uses. The objective of this study was to understand how decision makers involved in biological corridor management perceived and valued ecosystem services provided by coffee agroforestry systems (CAFS). In this project, I studied multiple ecosystem services (e.g., avian and insect biodiversity, insect pest regulation, and watershed services) of two common multi-strata coffee agroforestry systems (coffee plus Erythrina poeppigiana, and coffee plus Erythrina poeppigiana and Cordia alliodora) within the Volcánica Central de Talamanca Biological Corridor (VCTBC) in Costa Rica. I integrated the information from these studies with a digital elevation model, a land use cover map, a coffee database, a soils map, and a hydrological database to model a select suite of ecosystem services provided by CAFS at the landscape scale (720 km2). Following data integration, I interviewed the thirteen members of the local biological corridor committee to determine their preference of the selected CAFS ecosystem service indicators (e.g., structural connectivity, avian diversity, Cicadellidae (leafhopper) diversity, leaf-cutting ant risk, risk of crespera coffee disease causal-agent vectors, and erosion and water contamination risks). Committee members made pair-wise comparisons of preference for the different ecosystem services. After selecting 10 regions of the VCTBC (based on CAFS density and corridor connectivity), I conducted a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis with the decision makers of the corridor committee to prioritize local perspectives of the top three regions of interest for resource allocation. CAFS regions were seen as Strengths or Threats depending on known management styles and locations. While certain CAFS regions were prioritized because of specific environmental services, the corridor committee included location, proximity to roads and resources, and organizational infrastructure as other common themes for prioritization.