Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: North Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Irizarry, A. D., J.A. Collazo, J. Vandermeer, and Ivette Perfecto. 2021. Coffee plantations, hurricanes and avian resiliency: insights from occupancy, and local colonization and extinction rates in Puerto Rico. Global Ecology and Conservation 27 (2021) e01579


Insights on impacts and resiliency of avian species with respect to hurricanes in the Caribbean have largely focused on responses measured in protected habitats. We assessed avian responses in non-protected habitat, specifically shade-restored coffee plantations, because their structural complexity retains many attributes of secondary forests, and may contribute to landscape scale species resiliency. We tallied species richness and estimated occupancy probability of 12 resident avian species, after adjusting for imperfect detection, to assess the impact of hurricane Maria (20 September 2017) in shade-restored coffee plantations. For five of those species, we also estimated local colonization and extinction probabilities to assess their prospect of rebounding (resiliency) in the context of two stages of shade restoration. We used survey data collected March-June 2015-2017 (pre-hurricane) and 2018 (post-hurricane) in 58 coffee farms and satellite imagery to assess vegetation structure. Restored farms were grouped into two categories based on time-since-restoration: newly-restored and fully-restored. We predicted that mean percent forest cover in fully-restored farms (~30-40%) would revert to levels in newly-restored farms (<15%), with concomitant changes in occupancy by avian species. As predicted, mean percent forest cover (16.17 ± 4.27%) in fully-restored farms post-hurricane reverted to pre-hurricane levels in newly-restored farms (15.00 ± 5.61%). The loss represented 30-38% relative to the pre-hurricane cover levels. Detections of focal species dropped an average of 41% post-hurricane, with associated reductions in occupancy for 9/11 species. Occupancy of the Puerto Rican Bullfinch and Puerto Rican Spindalis reverted to levels detected in newly-restored plantations prior to the hurricane as predicted. Prospects of rebounding were more likely for species with invariant or increases in colonization probability (e.g., Yellow-faced Grassquit, Northern Mockingbird, Puerto Rican Spindalis). Rebounding for frugivores like the Puerto Rican Bullfinch would be protracted given that colonization rates dropped from 0.56 ± 0.12 (pre-hurricane) to 0.04 ± 0.2 (post-hurricane), regardless of restoration stage. Our work showed that the avian community associated with restored coffee farms exhibited a high degree of ecological resistance as the similarity in species composition before and after the hurricane was 81%, and all 12 focal species continued to occupy farms under both restoration stages. The prospect of the focal species to rebound (resiliency) was species-specific, and in some cases, mediated by their affinity to a particular farm restoration stage. The strength of hurricanes is projected to intensify with global warming. Pockets of undamaged or partially damaged shade-grown or fully-restored coffee plantations may contribute to species resiliency by increasing landscape level habitat redundancy, and facilitate habitat shifts to secure food resources or harbor source populations to colonize recovering, hurricane-damaged habitat tracts.