Tropical Coffee Landscapes should all be shade grown soon with native and productive canopy trees, in order to avert climate change negative impacts over coffee plantations. The resulting coffee forest engineered by The Ecotropics group is a three story agroecosystem and productive shade aimed to adapt and mitigate climate change. But, why is structural and functional shade so important for us? Standing on one of Colombia’s coffee-covered hillsides, it is not difficult to understand its relevance. At these higher elevations the sun’s rays radiate peak high levels of intense ultraviolet light; tropical downpours soak the earth in a matter of minutes; driving winds, and occasional frost, envelop misty mountains. Faced with these elements, coffee shrubs need to be safeguarded. Although most coffee grown around the world is cultivated without any shade cover, the shade structure of farms throughout Colombia varies in complexity; from shade composed of several species to more diverse systems that replicate the stories of a native forest as well as incorporating fruit trees, hardwoods, and epiphytes like bromeliads and orchids.
There are more than 20 species of shade trees grown at our nursery used by The Ecotropics group as shade on coffee farms. Among the most commonly found are Capirona decorticans (resbalamono), Cariniana pyriformis (Abarco), Podocarpus oleifolius (chaquiro), Carapa guianensis (cedro carmin), Caryodendron orinocense (Inchi), Cedrela odorata (Cedro), Juglans neotropica (nogal), Swietenia macrophylla (caoba), Myroxylon balsamum (balsamo), Colombobalanus excelsa (roble negro), Magnolia mahechae (almanegra), Quercus humboldtii (roble-algarrobo), Tabebuia chrysantha (guayacan amarillo), Inga edulis (guamo), Inga spuria (guamo bejuco); Inga ursi pitlier (guamo cacho de cabra); Inga marginata (guamo churimo de ribete), Calliandra lehmannii (carbonero morado), Pseudoacacia spectabilis (vainillo), Erythrina poeppigiana (písamo), Erythrina corallodendro (madre cacao). Inga trees are favorites because of their rapid growth, tolerance to diverse soils, and broad shade canopy. Besides, their fruit pods are an important source of food for birds and wildlife.