Agroforestry: The Next Step in Addressing Climate Change

The cultivation of trees on agricultural land helps to enrich soils, maintain soil moisture and stop erosion, provide vital habitat for wildlife, as well as store carbon. This practice, where tree and shrub cultivation is incorporated among crops or pasture, is called agroforestry and is the center of attention in a recent study looking at how to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture. 

The study in Scientific Reports, showed that agroforestry is playing a part in offsetting global greenhouse gas emissions to the tune of 0.75 Gigatonnes of CO2 per year. Planting woody vegetation on farms has the potential to play an important role in carbon sequestration worldwide since agriculture takes up about 40% of the earth’s landscape. In addition to the carbon offsets, agroforestry practices are important ecologically: they increase biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems by creating creating nest and shelter features as well as by providing other benefits associated with habitat.

Agriculture and land use changes account for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) worldwide. Agricultural practices that are effective at reducing carbon emissions are in high demand. Globally, around 43% of agricultural land has at least 10% tree cover. The research team used remote sensing data to look at how effective the varying tree cover patterns were at sequestering carbon over the last decade. What they found was that the existing trees on agricultural lands (worldwide) is a highly effective carbon pool. This is an important finding because while tree cover on agricultural lands is increasing, there is a lot more room for growth, resulting in more sequestered carbon. 

The call for policies that encourage and demand practices, like increasing tree coverage in agricultural lands, is a step in the right direction.

The future and success of wild nature depends on these types of solutions to combat the exponential worldwide growth of the human population, agriculture, and industry that is destroying habitat. However, as Wild Farm Alliance has promoted for more than 16 years, working with nature instead of fighting nature creates a mutual benefit where farmers receive ecosystem services and wildlife are able to thrive.

Wild Farm Alliance recently published a Biodiversity Continuum Chart and Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer's and Certifier's Guide, both publications outline the extensive agricultural benefits of complex farm landscapes and positive practices, like increasing woody biomass and tree cover. Agroforestry can help the farm as well as the planet.

Download these publications and learn more about practices that you can implement on your farm to increase biodiversity and be a part of the solution.

Read more about this research.