Ecosystem Conservation: Our Impacts

As the world’s population grows and natural resources dwindle, the creation of parks and protected natural areas is not enough to solve the problem of forest destruction. The Rainforest Alliance believes that it is possible to safeguard valuable ecosystems while still allowing communities and businesses to extract the forest resources upon which their livelihoods depend.

The farms, forests and tourism businesses with which we work not only manage their own lands sustainably but they also function as an integral part of the larger landscape -- keeping trees standing, preventing erosion, protecting waterways and soils, providing wildlife habitat and reducing the risk of fires and other destructive activities. Together, sustainably managed businesses and neighboring protected areas can form a thriving mosaic that nurtures ecosystems, wildlife and people.

Certified Plantation Forests Twice as Likely to Establish Natural Reserves

A study1 of Brazil’s plantation forests found that 100 percent of FSC/Rainforest Alliance Certified enterprises had established or were in the process of establishing legal reserves, compared to 57 percent of noncertified businesses. Certified enterprises also planted native species at a 40 percent higher rate than noncertified businesses, providing greater resistance to pests and decay and helping to restore the natural diversity that would be found in the landscape.

Certified Enterprises Link Forest Fragments and Provide Wildlife Habitat

Shade-grown coffee farms support more biodiversity than other agricultural land uses2, and certified farms and forests are good neighbors to forests and nature reserves as well as to the species that call them home.

  • A 2011 study found that FSC/Rainforest Alliance Certified forestry enterprises helped to protect nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- by enhancing wildlife habitat, providing additional sources of genetic material, minimizing the intrusion of invasive species and preventing forest fires.
  • Research found that migratory birds in El Salvador prefer Rainforest Alliance Certified farms3 to “sun” coffee farms. Located within the Apaneca Biological Corridor, the certified farms were part of a patchwork of forest fragments that safeguard migration routes for wildlife, including the country’s more than 500 bird species.

Certified Coffee Farms Improve Soil Health

Colombia’s Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms were found to have consistently higher richness and diversity of soil arthropods than noncertified farms4. These species -- including spiders, mites and ticks -- are sensitive to the texture, structure and fertility of soil, and their presence is an indicator of soil health.

Certified Forestry Concessions Prevent Deforestation & Fires Better than Protected Areas

Guatemala’s 4.9-million-acre Maya Biosphere Reserve includes areas designated as forestry concessions, where local communities are allowed to extract timber. Researchers found that the deforestation rate was 20 times higher in the reserve’s protected areas than in FSC/Rainforest Alliance Certified concessions, and the incidence of forest fires was 104 times higher in protected areas -- 10.4 percent of land burned versus 0.1 percent in certified concessions.

The Environmental Benefits of Our Work:

  1. Imaflora, Does Certification Make a Difference? Impact Assessment Study On FSC/SAN Certification In Brazil, 2009. http://www.imaflora.org/downloads/biblioteca/Does_certification_make_a_difference.pdf

  2. I. Perfecto, R. A. Rice, R. Greenberg and M. E. van der Vort, “Shade Coffee: A Disappearing Refuge for Biodiversity.” BioScience 46, no. 8 (1996): 598–608. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/science_article/pdfs/93.pdf
    A.R. Brash, “The History of Avian Extinctions and Forest Conversion on Puerto Rico,” Biological Conservation 39 (1987): 97–111; http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0006320787900280
    M. A. Nir, “The Survivors: Orchids on a Puerto Rican Coffee Finca,” American Orchid Society Bulletin 57 (1988): 989–995; http://openagricola.nal.usda.gov/Record/IND88040304

  3. Oliver Komar, Are Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee Plantations Bird-Friendly? Final Technical Report Study of Dispersing Forest Birds and Migratory Birds in El Salvador’s Apaneca Biological Corridor. June 28, 2012. http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/publications/komar-bird-study

  4. David Hughell and Deanna Newsom, Impacts of Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee farms in Colombia,2013. http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/publications/cenicafe-report