Agroforestry creates carbon sinks whilst enhancing the environment in agricultural landscapes in Europe

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A new publication from the AGFORWARD project (FP7 2014-2017) assessed the carbon storage potential of agroforestry systems in Europe. As a first step, regions with environmental problems were identified with respect to soil health (soil erosion by water and wind, low soil organic carbon), water quality (water pollution by nitrates, salinization by irrigation), areas affected by climate change (rising temperature), and by under provision in biodiversity (pollination and pest control pressures, loss of soil biodiversity). The first part of the analysis showed that 94.4% of farmlands suffer from at least one environmental problem. Hereafter, 10% of the area with the highest number of accumulated environmental problems were defined as Priority Areas, where the implementation of agroforestry could be particularly effective. In a second step, European agroforestry experts were asked to propose agroforestry practices suitable for the Priority Areas they were familiar with, and identified 64 different systems covering a wide range of practices, ranging from hedgerows on field boundaries to fast growing coppices or scattered single tree systems. According to the results of the AGFORWARD team, implementing agroforestry on the Priority Areas could lead to a sequestration of 7.78 and 234.85 million t CO2 equivalents per year depending on the type of agroforestry. This corresponds to between 1.4 and 43.4% of European agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a conclusion, the AGFORWARD researchers propose that the strategic and spatially targeted establishment of agroforestry systems could provide an effective means of meeting EU policy objectives on GHG emissions whilst providing a range of other important benefits.

Full reference:
Sonja Kay, Carlo Rega, Gerardo Moreno, Michael den Herder, et al. 2019. Agroforestry creates carbon sinks whilst enhancing the environment in agricultural landscapes in Europe. Land Use Policy 83, 581-593.