March 19 (UPI) -- Single-crop farms, which dominate today's agriculture industry, fail to provide the buffer against climate change that crop diversity does, a new Stanford study shows.
For the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Stanford researchers looked at how farming practices impacted bird biodiversity in Costa Rica.
"Farms that are good for birds are also good for other species," Jeffrey Smith, a biology graduate student and co-author of the study, said in a statement. "We can use birds as natural guides to help us design better agriculture systems."
Overall, diversified farms provided a more stable and secure habitat for birds and a better climate change buffer than single-crop farms, the research team found.
"The tropics are expected to suffer even more intensely in terms of prolonged dry seasons, extreme heat and forest dieback under climate change," said Gretchen Daily, director of the Stanford National Capital Project and the Center for Conservation Biology and a senior author of the paper. "But diversified farms offer refuge -- they can buffer these harmful effects in ways similar to a natural forest ecosystem."
Daily said there is a variety of cash crops that thrive in diversified farms, noting that bananas and coffee are grown together in Costa Rica, where taller banana plants shade temperature-sensitive coffee beans.
"This study shows that climate change has already been impacting wildlife communities, continues to do so, and that local farming practices really matter in protecting biodiversity and building climate resilience," said Nick Hendershot, a biology graduate student and lead author of the study.