Neotropical Kitchen Garden as a Potential Research Landscape for Conservation Biologists

Steinberg, Micheal K. (1998) Neotropical Kitchen Garden as a Potential Research Landscape for Conservation Biologists. Conservation Biology, 12 (5). pp. 1150-1152.

Download (695Kb)


    Several studies indicate that agroecosystems such as coffee or cacao plantations with an overstory of shade trees can rival the biodiversity of natural forests in terms of Neotropical avifauna diversity (Erwin & Scott 1980; Estrada et al. 1993). Vandermeer and Perfecto (1997) state that these diverse, human-created ecosystems are becoming as rare as their natural counterparts due to the introduction of coffee and cacao varieties that do not require shade trees; therefore, more research should focus on agroecosystems. Shaded coffee plantations are often singled out as the most important agricultural habitat in terms of their biodiversity (Perfecto et al. 1996). I argue that kitchen gardens, another anthropogenically created agroecosystem, also provide important habitat for biodiversity, including Neotropical avifauna. Kitchen gardens are important agroecological systems in many cultural landscapes in the tropics and subtropics. According to Gómez-Pompa and Kaus (1990), kitchen gardens (also known as home gardens, dooryard gardens, or huertos familiares) are the second most important agroecological feature among traditional tropical societies after swidden cultivation. They provide subsistence and cash income and offer a repository and domestication experimentation site for many plant varieties (Kimber 1973; Landauer & Brazil 1990). Yet, compared to other forms of tropical agriculture, the research conducted on kitchen gardens is scant, especially regarding their ecological importance (Gómez-Pompa & Kaus 1990). The Mopan Maya of southern Belize have kitchen gardens that are multi-storied and contain a mixture of minor crops, fruits, ornamentals, and medicinal plants. Like a coffee plantation with an overstory canopy, kitchen gardens mimic a natural forest’s ground, shrub, and canopy layers.

    Item Type: Peer-reviewed Journal Article
    Related URLs:
      Publisher: Steinberg
      Subjects: (Z) Other or Unspecified
      Publication Sources: (3) Other Source > (3D) Other or Unspecified
      Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2014 08:54
      Last Modified: 12 Mar 2014 09:07

      Actions (login required)

      View Item