Tropical conservation and research has focused primarily on protected areas and has largely neglected the conservation value of the vast and growing agricultural areas. Understanding how species and groups of species persist in deforested areas and react to conversion of tropical rainforest to agricultural land is critical to maximize conservation. I compared bird community composition in four habitats in a mixed agriculture- tropical rainforest ecosystem in Northeastern Costa Rica: organic shade-grown cacao plantation, live fences in silvopasture, riparian forests in a silvopasture matrix, and preserved late successional forest. Point counts over two-months (March-April, 2013) found 167 species from 35 families. Detrended correspondence analysis showed that all three agroforest habitats and the rainforest each sustain a different assemblage of birds, indicating that the varied agricultural landscape in this area supports a higher species richness of birds than any of the individual systems would on their own. Mean number of species identified per point was greatest in live fences, intermediate in riparian forest and cacao , and lowest in the rainforest. New world warblers and the nectar, small insects/spiders diet guild were more abundant in cacao; flycatchers, sparrows, and the ground foraging strata were more abundant in live fences; ovenbirds and omnivores were more abundant in riparian forest; and wrens and the fruits or fruits and seeds diet guild were more abundant rainforest. Many bird species in the agricultural lands occurred only in the shade trees of the cacao plantation, only in the live fences within the pastures, and only in the riparian forest buffers. Given this, legislation and management should continue to require and encourage preserving the forested aspects of the agricultural landscape. To provide maximum large landscape conservation, a varied agricultural landscape must be maintained outside of preserves to promote maximum avian diversity and take advantage of the considerable conservation benefits of many agricultural systems.
Many communities across the globe are threatened by food shortages and variability because of physical constraints and natural opportunities such as presence of fertile soil, good weather, and access to the sea and mountain ranges. Although populations are struggling, there are many cases where communities do have access to these resources, but have lost a sense of connection to the space they inhabit. The following thesis analyzes the agroecology and local food system of a specific area in Southern Mexico. I research the role of cultural colonialism in the evolution of Pre-Columbian food ways and how communities can return to and promote new, more sustainable agricultural methods through culinary tourism.