AVES DEL CACAO PROJECT
we determine the ecological importance of cacao farms in the Caribbean? If so,
how can we use farming as a conservation strategy? Millions of acres of
rainforests are lost to agriculture every year. Can we mitigate biodiversity
loss by promoting agroforestry practices or are we heading towards an
The Aves del Cacao Project or Birds in Cacao Project in the Dominican Republic 2012-15 aims at determining the vegetation features influencing bird communities in cacao farms in the Duarte Province. We will compare bird assemblages in farmlands and pristine areas to identify management practices that support the highest biodiversity possible. How tall should the canopy be? Which shade trees are essential for the avifauna? How do farmers perceive the ecosystem services provided by birds?
Who are we?
We are a team of scientists, students and volunteers that love birds, chocolate and conservation! The project is directed by the Ryan Lab at SUNY ESF, under the guidance of Dr. Sadie Ryan. Andrea will conduct the bird surveys with the help of Grupo Accion Ecologica (GAE), a local NGO dealing with ornithological research and conservation. This group has documented and surveyed birds in the DR for over 20 years and is currently working on the Luisiana Waterthrush Project/ Proyecto Ciguita de Rio. They work in collaboration with Dr. Steve Latta from the National Aviary of Pittsburgh, who will provide guidance throughout our project.
We will work closely with the community of Loma de la Joya in the outskirts of San Francisco de Macoris, Duarte, DR. The community is located in an area of widespread cacao farming. During this project, we will share resources with GAE to assist on environmental education programs for children, including Campamento Barrancoli and Nidos de mi Finca (2013).
A lot of virgin forests in Latin America have been converted to pastures, sugar cane, oil palm or cacao plantations. To mitigate habitat loss, ecologists have promoted the use of agroforestry as a conservation tool. The integration of crops such as cacao in a forest system can help maintain high levels of biodiversity. As a result, the growing global demand for organic cacao could lead to a more sustainable future in low income nations.
Having lost over 60% of its original forest, the Dominican Republic presents a unique demand for biological research and conservation. As a part of a biodiversity hostpot, the DR contains high levels of endemism, and is denoted a priority area for protecting both resident and migratory bird species. Considered a key point in the Atlantic flyway and being a major cacao producer, the DR can serve as an ideal case study to understand the role of sustainable agroforestry in developing nations.