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Pollination merely 1 production factor
Date:6/5/2013

plantation perspective, it makes sense to remove trees and increase yields," says the ETH Zurich professor. "But if every farmer goes for the same option, they will all suffer the consequences of poor pollination because the giant honeybee will disappear."

Sure enough, the researchers observed gradual deforestation in the Kodagu experiment area. Ghazoul is convinced that the farmers will lose Apis dorsata in the long run and thus unless they take countermeasures their valuable contribution towards coffee pollination. "It remains unclear whether the other two species of bee could compensate for this loss." However, the farmers' predicament is not hopeless, he says. They could domesticate Apis cerana, a very close relative of the European honeybee, and place beehives on the plantations, which would guarantee the pollination service without becoming dependent on Apis dorsata. The drawback: this absolves the farmers from their responsibility for the forest and trees. "The farmers are thus free to decide whether they want to have trees on their land or not," stresses the ecologist, which spells bad news for nature conservation. "But good news for farmers. They have got possibilities to increase their harvest and sustain or even improve their existence."

Unexpected threat from exotic tree species

The traditional forest trees face another danger. Farmers often replace felled local trees with the exotic Australian silver oak (Grevillea robusta), which provides the coffee plants with the shade they need. Moreover, it grows quickly and has a straight trunk, which farmers can use to grow pepper as the spice can be harvested more easily on the trunks. The sale of pepper and wood from the silver oaks is a way for the farmers to supplement their income.

However, the farmers are increasingly beginning to realise that the exotic tree also has its drawbacks. For one, its leaves barely decompose, covering the ground
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Contact: Jaboury Ghazoul
jaboury.ghazoul@env.ethz.ch
41-446-328-627
ETH Zurich
Source:Eurekalert

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