ProjectThe Role of Cacao Agroecosystems in Maintaining Bird Diversity and Ecosystem Services.
Cacao agroforestry systems are sustainable agricultural systems that contribute to biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction in developing countries. Ecologists and conservationists can make synergy with the Soconusco cacao producers for the improvement and conservation of biodiversity. This approach, necessarily must be with a decolonizing approach, respect for their culture, traditions and ancestral knowledge. Since my master's research project in the Lacandonia Chiapas rainforest region in 2007, I have been interested in cacao agroforestry systems as a study system. I started building this project in 2016. In 2018, I entered the University of Sherbrooke to do my doctoral studies. Over the past two years, I have built a project with a solid foundation that has allowed researchers at this university to move into a new field of study in one of the most critical regions for the production of aromatic cacao. The general objective of my research is to assess bird diversity (taxonomic and functional) and to understand the environmental services of pest control through the study of food webs. To achieve this objective, I will analyze the taxonomic and functional diversity of birds as well as the ecosystem services of arthropod control in a shade management gradient of the cacao agroforestry system. My project has three specific objectives: 1) characterize the shade management gradient by describing the typology of cocoa, the socioeconomic and cultural reasons determining it, and its impact on cacao yields. 2) to analyze the taxonomic and functional diversity along this gradient in two landscape matrices, agricultural vs. forest matrix. 3) to evaluate the ecosystem services of arthropod control and their link to pathogens such as frosty pod rot disease using bats and birds exclusion experiments. My research will contribute to a better understanding of the cacao socio-ecological systems in Mexico, to understand which shade management practices are the most sustainable and have the highest yields. From the ecological point of view, to better understand the relationship between functional and taxonomic diversity from the local to the landscape scales. It will also contribute to understanding more about the ecosystem services and trophic networks in these systems with a landscape perspective. I am grateful to the cacoa producers of the Soconusco region, where cacoa cultivation began between 1900-1700 BCE, for the Mocaya culture. Without them and the support of the Mexican government through CONACYT, it would not be possible.