News from Belize — Do birds cacao?

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Do Birds Cacao?

Tori Haugvoll and Katherine Rogers

Within one of Belize’s protected areas, the BFREE research center contains many attributes to scientific research and experimental opportunities. Inside the limits of BFREE is an introduced cacao plantation surrounded by vast rainforest (cacao is the fruit that contains seeds that produce chocolate). Cacao was being grown under a native forest canopy. During our first couple of days of exploring the areas of BFREE we identified many different bird species. For our project, we decided to study the abundance and diversity of bird species in the forested area compared to the cacao plantation. Waking up before the sunrise to attempt to optimize our data collection, we ventured into the forest and plantation to observe activity in both sites. After an intense two hours of searching through binoculars, we determined that the birds were more abundant in the cacao plantation. The two sites had the same species richness, but were dissimilar in composition, each containing a unique assemblage of species. We concluded that while agroforestry operations for cacao that use native forest canopies will promote bird diversity, these mixed species plantations are not a substitute for the actual rainforest and the complex habitat structure it provides for specific bird species.

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