Room for Complexity? The Many Players in the Coffee Agroecosystem

The BioScience Talks podcast features discussions of topical issues related to the biological sciences.

Agricultural areas are often considered distinct from local ecosystems, and in many cases, such an assessment rings true. Single-crop farmlands, reliant on the liberal use of pest- and herbicides, often limit local biodiversity and species interactions. However, in other agricultural settings, robust ecosystems thrive, intermingled with crops and supporting a diversity of species.

One such acroecosystem is coffee’s. On shade-coffee farms, the coffee plant is consumed by numerous pests, including the green coffee scale, coffee berry borer, and coffee rust disease. In turn, these species are regulated by a variety of natural enemies, through processes of often staggering complexity. In a major BioScience Overview article, John Vandermeer of the University of Michigan and his colleagues aim to untangle such complexities and get at the heart of pest control in the coffee system, emphasizing the intersection of ecology with “the burgeoning field of complex systems, including references to chaos, critical transitions, hysteresis, basin or boundary collision, and spatial self-organization.”

Dr. Vandermeer joins us on this episode of BioScience Talks to discuss the coffee agroecosystem–and the many species and dynamics that underlie it.

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