Transition to agroforestry: Current challenges and opportunities for the adoption of agroforestry as carbon sequestration strategy

Sara Burbi, Rodrigo Olave

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    The multiple benefits of agroforestry include the provision of several ecosystem services, e.g. biodiversity, food, timber, mitigation of climate change and the risk of erosion and land degradation. Carbon sequestration from agroforestry systems is an important regulating ecosystem service. Data from several studies in Europe (Northern Ireland, England, Spain, Portugal) suggest that agroforestry has a great potential to sequester carbon, in some cases more than grassland (Olave, 2016; Fornara et al., 2017). However, adoption of agroforestry is facing challenges due to several factors influencing farmers and land managers decision-making. Similar to what was found in a recent British study on livestock farmers’ attitudes to on-farm climate change mitigation strategies using a decision-support tool tailored for the sector (Burbi et al., 2016), the adoption of innovation to transition to climate friendly practices can encounter obstacles that are not always related to the evidence base to support the benefits of agroforestry. Barriers to innovation in the agroforestry sector include the uncertainty regarding carbon assessment methodologies. In particular, Land Use and Land Use Change from Forestry (LULUCF) accounting needs to better reflect the full potential for carbon sequestration from agroforestry systems using comprehensive calculations. Economic modelling is also a key aspect in promoting agroforestry, as one of the greatest barriers to innovation is the uncertainty in finance and labour required in an agroforestry system. This is particularly important for researchers to consider when engaging in the promotion of agroforestry. Clear and transparent communication on the multiple benefits of a system should also include information on the trade-offs and the possibility of integration of agroforestry within the current legislative framework. On the one hand, future work needs to address the uncertainty in LULUCF accounting and refine current methodologies used to measure the carbon balance of the system. Agroforestry-adapted legislation is also needed to better reflect the importance of these systems in terms of climate change mitigation and their delivery of multiple environmental and socio-economic ecosystem services. On the other hand, decision-support tools need to be adapted for agroforestry to highlight practices that are more suited for the landscape and the socio-economic context, helping farmers and land managers to easily identify the practices that provide greater carbon sequestration without compromising the productivity of their agri-businesses.References:1.Burbi, S., Baines, R.N., & Conway, J.S. (2016) Achieving successful farmer engagement on greenhouse gas emission mitigation. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 14: 466-483. DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2016.11520622.Fornara, D., Olave, R., Burgess, P., Delmer, A., Upson, M., & McAdam, J. (2017). Land use change and soil carbon pools: evidence from a long-term silvopastoral experiment. Agroforestry Systems, AGFORWARD. Special Issue.3.Olave, R. (2016). Agroforestry as a land use option to sequester carbon in a cool temperate climate. World Congress Silvo-pastoral Systems 2016. University of Évora, Portugal. 27-30 September 2016.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages8
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2017
    EventAgroecology Europe Conference - Lyons, France
    Duration: 25 Oct 201727 Oct 2017


    ConferenceAgroecology Europe Conference
    Internet address


    • agroforestry
    • agroecology
    • carbon sequestration and storage
    • transition
    • decision support systems
    • indicator-based assessment tools
    • farmer engagement
    • participatory research
    • land use changes
    • climate change


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