ISSN 1188-603X

No. 152 December 26, Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


Many thanks to all of you who contributed to BEN with your articles in 1996. I browsed through all thirty (or so) issues of BEN 1996 and was surprised how many different topics were covered. Thank you, Alwynne, Art, Bruce, Bill, Charles, Craig, Diane, Frank, Hans, Hisao, Hugues, Ingolf, Jan, Jenifer, Jim, Kathy, Kerry, Mary, Rachel, Rene, Suspa, Tara (still married, I hope), Thor, Toby, Tom, Trevor, Wilf, etc., for your contributions. I was glad that in most cases I acted as a moderator, not as an editor. I would like to thank all of you who read BEN regularly, and I think it is now too late to thank all of those who delete BEN as soon as they get it. I would like to wish all of you happy and successful new year 1997.


The following message sneaked through my BEN mailing system:

> Could someone please tell me the name of the Greek mythical
> character who displeased Zeus and whose consequent punishment
> was that s/he would always predict future events correctly,
> but no one would believe him/her?
> ...
> Sizwe Cawe [South Africa]
The first correct answer came from Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures, Oxted, UK:
Cassandra, daughter of King Priam of Troy. It was Apollo, in the guise
of Loxias, the god of prophecy, whom she upset. He gave her the gift
of prophecy to win her over but she spurned him (she obviously didn't
see a tall, handsome stranger in _her_future!), so he arranged for her
always to be disbelieved. 

Such good losers those Greek gods. 8-)

[Cassandra had a bad luck in botany too: the name Cassandra seems to be a mere synonym of the genus Chamaedaphne (Ericaceae/Vacciniaceae). - AC]


From: Hamel, Kathy ( originally on

The conference will be held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Seattle on March 27 and 28th. The morning of the 27 (Thursday), we will be holding a Brazilian elodea (Egeria densa) symposium. The afternoon of the 27th and the morning of the 28th, we'll have our regular paper session. Papers are short--15 minutes with 5 minutes for questions. Anything having to do with aquatic plants and their management are accepted.

Registration costs are low $35-$40. We have a reception with "finger food" on Thursday evening and I have found that this makes a good dinner and gives everybody a chance to meet and talk. Conferences usually end about 2:00 so that people can make plane connections or drive home.

If you would like more information, or "call for papers" announcement, please reply to this E-mail or call me at (360) 407-6562. Thanks Kathy


From: Mary Stensvold / Don Muller (

The Alaska Rare Plant Working Group will hold its annual spring meeting from April 2 through 4 at the Chugach National Forest 3rd floor Conference room in Anchorage.

The Alaska Rare Plant Working Group is soliciting agenda items. Agenda items could include the results of your 1996 field work, descriptions of your 1996 field trips, proposals for 1997 field work, presentations describing ongoing plant work, or any topic that would be of interest to the group. If you would like to give a presentation, please send a general description of your presentation and its approximate length to Debbie Blank - District Botanist, Bureau of Land Management; 6881 Abbott Loop Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99502 (phone, 907-267-1227, fax 907-267-1267, e-mail DBlank@AK.Blm.Gov). The final agenda will be sent out during the middle of March.


From: "Woodsworth,Eric [Sas]" (Eric.Woodsworth@EC.GC.CA)

Believe it or not, it has happened! Wildnet is back on line after taking a rest for a year. A lot has happened on the Internet in a year, and mailing lists are quickly being overtaken by other vehicles like web sites. However I don't mind providing this forum and contributing to it, for the original purposes.

The Wildnet electronic mailing list was established in 1987 for the exchange of ideas, questions, and solutions in the area of fisheries and wildlife computing and statistics. Possibilities include reviews of literature, reports on conferences, questions on experimental design and analysis, field techniques, relevant hardware, software, databases, discussions on geographic information systems, biological information management, and so on.

To subscribe WILDNET, send

 subscribe WILDNET


From: Bart Sbeghen (Originally in the Biological Conservation Newsletter, No. 161, Nov. 1996, distributed on CONSLINK and edited by Jane Villa-Lobos )

Fall is upon us and fair weather birds of the United States are leaving in droves for Mexico and Central America in search of a patch of forest in which to sit out the harsh winter until the next breeding season. Unfortunately less and less forest awaits them every year due to clearing. As little as ten percent of the original forest cover remains in some Latin American countries, so many birds have sought refuge in the next best thing: coffee farms. Traditional coffee farms to be more exact.

In traditional coffee farms the shade-tolerant coffee shrubs are grown beneath a canopy of native forest trees intermingled with fruit trees (tangerines, avocados, bananas, plantains, lemons) and other plants. A wide range of migratory birds such as tanagers, orioles, warblers, and vireos as well as year-round residents such as parrots, toucans, trogons and woodpeckers (few of which actually eat coffee berries) find this environment attractive. And little wonder as the multilayered ecosystems that result resemble pseudo-forests with coffee shrubs as the understory, fruit trees at the middle level and native hardwoods such as Mexican cedar as the canopy. This structural diversity is linked, as it often is, to species diversity in animals such as birds, invertebrates and mammals. The number of bird species supported by traditional coffee farms is sometimes only exceeded in undisturbed tropical forests.

The ecologically diverse coffee farms also benefit farmers economically by providing a variety of products for local consumption and for sale, plus some insurance if coffee prices are low. Costs for the farmers are reduced too as the virtually self-sustaining ecosystems require little or no pesticides, fungicides, irrigation or fertilizers. These are supplanted by such phenomena as natural predation of insects by the diverse animal life, a mulching leaf litter that reduces evaporation, erosion and weed growth and a protective canopy that buffers against drying winds and eroding rain.

Despite these advantages these seemingly safe havens are becoming scarce as many farmers convert to modernized coffee farms. This process started in the early 1970s as coffee farmers began to adopt modern methods that relied on new, high yield, densely packed coffee plants. These dwarf plants are usually grown in evenly spaced rows in full sun, nurtured with fertilizers and protected against attack by an array of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. The higher density of plantings and use of fertilizers results in up to four times the production per land area of traditional farms.

Seduced by the higher yields and, initially at least, protection against a fungal pest known as leaf rust, many farmers willingly dismantled their traditional farms along with the overstory and replanted modern, full sun coffee plant varieties. At the same time they exposed bare soils to rain, sun and wind. The results have been increased erosion, polluted run-off, a substantial reduction in wildlife habitat, and increased exposure of workers to hazardous chemicals. These modern "technified" farms reportedly suffer significantly more soil erosion than farms with shade trees, especially on steep slopes where coffee is commonly grown in Latin America.

Overall, the conversion from shade to full sun coffee renders coffee farms as useless for wildlife as other tropical monocultures and mimics the agricultural transformation that has occurred in the production of other crops such as corn, rice and wheat.

Perhaps one way to assure the prosperity of traditional coffee farms and the biodiversity they support is to develop a market for the type of coffee they produce. If shade or bird-friendly coffee could be distinguished from coffee from technified non-shade farms (and this is easier said than done as there is a continuous graduation of degrees of shade) then consumers may be willing to pay a premium for it. This could negate the impetus for farmers to switch to full sun coffee with its higher production levels.

Several advocates of shade and organic coffee production methods such as the Organic Crop Improvement Association Inc. and the Rainforest Alliance are attempting to provide some type of classification system to allow this to happen. They were among the co-sponsors of the first Sustainable Coffee Congress organized by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center held in Washington, D.C. in September. The hope is that one day buying "shade coffee" will be like buying dolphin-free tuna.

For more information on the Congress or the Migratory Bird Center, contact:

Russell Greenberg, Director
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
National Zoological Park
3000 Block of Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, DC 20008

Tel.: (202) 673-4908; Fax: (202) 673-4916.

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