Socio-Ecological Systems: Forest Conservation and Sustainable Coffee in Mesoamerica

View of an Integrated Open Canopy farm in the Yoro coffee growing region of Honduras.


The Mesoamerican region encompasses the Central American countries and the southeastern portion of Mexico sustaining diversity in cultures, ecosystems and biodiversity. Among this biodiversity, migratory birds depend on this region to overwinter for ~ 5 months of the year, every year. Some researchers have suggested that this wintering season of the annual life cycle may be the most limiting for migratory birds and that loss and degradation of forests in Mesoamerica are primary causes of declines in some bird species. PhD student Fabiola Rodríguez is focusing her research on understanding the proximate mechanisms by which habitat loss in Mesoamerica, specifically Honduras, can affect fitness of migratory birds.


Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla), study species that overwinters in coffee production landscapes of Honduras.

The primary cause of forest loss in Honduras is conversion to coffee production. Fabiola’s research is being conducted in a coffee growing region of Honduras, a working landscape that is a mosaic of forest and agriculture, which exemplifies the type of habitat many migratory birds encounter during their overwintering phase in Mesoamerica. 

Honduran team studying a Wilson’s Warbler.

In Honduras, our collaborators have established a model for forest conservation on private lands, driven by market forces (  We have established a collaboration with researchers spanning different disciplines (e.g. economics, wildlife biology, ecology, watershed management) from an array of academic institutions in the United States as well as MDI. We aim to understand the sustainability of the socio-ecological system proposed in the Yoro coffee producing region of Honduras by integrating the study of forest ecosystem services and the economics of coffee and carbon.

This work will be funded by a new award from the National Science Foundation. Growing Convergence Research (GCR): Collaborative Research Designing a sustainable coffee production system through convergence research using a multi-scale ecosystems approach.

Press Releases about the NSF award


Cafe Solar Awarded Scientific Funding

Other Press 

Fabiola was interviewed about how coffee production affects biodiversity in Honduras on the CurioSCIty podcast! Episode 72, titled Coffee…and Birds! (w/ Fabiola Rodriguez!) 

Merchants of Green Coffee article

Lab members involved in this project:

Fabiola Rodriguez, PhD Candidate