Ecosystem Services

A bird rests on a researcher's hand during a session in the field.

Anthropods like these are recorded during biodiversity assessments.

A researcher takes photos during biodiversity assessments.

A researcher measures an animal for biodiversity assessments.

An example of an ant trapping method.

An example of the set up for biodiversity exclusion experiments.

A researcher holds cacao blossoms. If you look closely, you can see an aphid infestation!

A researcher applies adhesive for pollinator trapping.

Project: Assessments of bird and bat diversity in cacao plantations and adjacent forests 

Location(s): La Quemazón, Piura; Echarati and Kiteni, Cusco

Lead Researcher: Carolina Ocampo

Summary: Mist-netting surveys, point counts, and sound recordings will be used to evaluate how the abundance and composition of bird and bat communities vary in cacao agroforests with different characteristics. The ultimate aim of this work is to establish a baseline catalogue of bird and bat diversity in cacao agroforests across Peru. This catalogue will include which ecosystem services are provided by which fauna, according to their diet and other biological needs, as well as how these services vary according to the location and other features of cacao agroforests.

For birds specifically, fixed-radius point counts will be performed in a set of smallholder-cacao plantations and adjacent native forests in order to understand diversity patterns of the entire bird community, irrespective of each community’s size. These methods also provide a proxy for the abundance and activity rates of each species in the various study areas. Then, in combination with mist-netting surveys, we will acquire detailed information on the biological cycles and population structure of understory bird species. For bats specifically, mist-netting surveys will be accompanied by ultrasound recordings. This last method is an innovative tool for studying insectivorous bats and other cryptic species, which are often not recorded through other methods

Project: Assessments of arthropod functional diversity in response to landscape and management variables in cacao agroforests 

Location(s): La Quemazón, Piura

Lead Researcher: Carolina Ocampo

Summary: Using branch beating, as well as manual collection and observations, the diversity of arthropods found in cacao agroforests will be collected and recorded. Some will be documented as pests, others as intermediate as others, and still others as provied different or unkown ecosystem services. Ultimately, the aim is to understand how the abundance of different trophic guilds varies within cacao agroforests according to seasonality, distance to forest, grafting on cacao plants, and other variables.

Project: Quantifying the effects of birds, bats and ants on cacao productivity and quality

Location(s): La Quemazon, Piura; Echarati & Kiteni, Cucso

Lead Researcher: Carolina Ocampo

Summary: In order to evaluate pest control services, a set of exclosures will be used to selectively prevent the access of birds, bats, or ants to cacao plants. This method allows for comparisons of productivity, harvest quality, and pest incidence between native cacao with and without the presence of the selected pest predators. The results will be used to identify and promote improvements in biological pest control strategies for cacao plantations and the conservation of native fauna within the study regions.

Project: Assessment of ant diversity in native cacao plantations and adjacent forest

Location(s): La Quemazón, Piura; Echarati and Kiteni, Cusco

Lead Researcher: Justine Vansynghel

Summary: As a first step towards understanding the role of ants in cacao agroforests, the patterns of ants in cacao farms and surrounding natural forests will be studied using standardized baited traps. Comparisons among sites will provide valuable insights into the factors that shape ant communities. In addition, these surveys will be combined with exclusions in order to investigate ant effects on fruit set and final yields.

Project: Manipulating pollination to understand yield and productivity of native cacao

Location: La Quemazón, Piura; Echarati and Kiteni, Cusco

Lead Researcher: Justine Vansynghel

Summary: Within large-scale field trials, changing pollination treatments, specifically manual pollen supplementation and arthropod exclusions, act as the independent variable. During the entire cacao production cycle, dependent variables of fertilization, fruit set, abortion and harvestable yield rates will be quantified. These results will be cross analyzed with experiments that evaluate exclusions of other vertebrate and invertebrate groups in order to understand the interactive effects on the cacao harvest.

Project: Assessment of cacao pollinators

Location: La Quemazón, Piura; Echarati and Kiteni, Cusco

Lead Researcher: Justine Vansynghel

Summary: By applying insect trapping glue to freshly opened flowers, arthropods that visit cacao flowers can be caught and identified as potential cacao pollinators. These results will be used to make inferences about how the frequencies of visitation differ among farms with varying levels of shade. Complementary to this trapping, cacao flowers will also be visually monitored in order to understand both pollination and flower herbivory.