Shade Tree Diversity, Cocoa Pest Damage, Yield Compensating Inputs and Farmers' Net Returns in West Africa

Bisseleua, Hervé Bertin Daghela; Fotio, Daniel; Yede; Missoup, Alain Didier; Vidal, Stefan

Cocoa agroforests can significantly support biodiversity, yet intensification of farming practices is degrading agroforestry habitats and compromising ecosystem services such as biological pest control. Effective conservation strategies depend on the type of relationship between agricultural matrix, biodiversity and ecosystem services, but to date the shape of this relationship is unknown. We linked shade index calculated from eight vegetation variables, with insect pests and beneficial insects (ants, wasps and spiders) in 20 cocoa agroforests differing in woody and herbaceous vegetation diversity. We measured herbivory and predatory rates, and quantified resulting increases in cocoa yield and net returns. We found that number of spider webs and wasp nests significantly decreased with increasing density of exotic shade tree species. Greater species richness of native shade tree species was associated with a higher number of wasp nests and spider webs while species richness of understory plants did not have a strong impact on these beneficial species. Species richness of ants, wasp nests and spider webs peaked at higher levels of plant species richness. The number of herbivore species (mirid bugs and cocoa pod borers) and the rate of herbivory on cocoa pods decreased with increasing shade index. Shade index was negatively related to yield, with yield significantly higher at shade and herb covers<50%. However, higher inputs in the cocoa farms do not necessarily result in a higher net return. In conclusion, our study shows the importance of a diverse shade canopy in reducing damage caused by cocoa pests. It also highlights the importance of conservation initiatives in tropical agroforestry landscapes.

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Earth Institute
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February 22, 2017