Stream friendly coffee
De Jesus Crespo, Rebeca Giselle
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Sustainability certifications are an increasingly important strategy for promoting natural resource conservation and social wellbeing, especially in the developing tropics. This dissertation addresses stream protection within agroforestry systems in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance (RA), one of the largest certification programs of tropical agricultural products. Our partnership focused on a) developing a protocol to monitor RA certification’s impact on stream protection, b) gathering baseline data about the impact of streams on coffee agroforestry (one of the leading RA certified industries), and c) evaluating the effectiveness of the RA program at advancing stream protection within coffee agroforestry. We conducted this study in Tarrazu, a high elevation, high intensity coffee growing region in Costa Rica. The results of this study suggest that streams within Tarrazu coffee agroforestry systems fall within recommended physicochemical and bio-integrity criteria for aquatic ecosystem conservation, and support high levels of diversity and pollution sensitive taxa. However, these streams also present some evidence of degradation, notably an increase proportion of certain tolerant taxa (Simuliidae and Hydropsychidae), a decrease proportion of shredder-detritivore taxa, and increases in pH, conductivity, and turbidity relative to a forested reference site. The study provides evidence of the effectiveness of RA’s certification requirement of preserving a minimum of 40% shade tree cover through the coffee plantation to mitigate some of these impacts, especially if the practice is implemented at the sub-watershed scale. This dissertation concludes with a chapter that draws from literature on research partnerships to develop an NGO-Academia collaboration framework. We illustrate the use of this framework using our experience with this project and two other examples of research partnerships involving sustainability certifications. Our contributions with this project include baseline information about stream ecosystem response to coffee agriculture, the first empirical support of the effectiveness of one of RA’s certification requirements at advancing stream protection, and a road map to guide future collaborative projects between academics and non-governmental organizations for science-based conservation.