Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 229–239 | Cite as

Ecological structure and carbon storage in traditional silvopastoral systems in Nicaragua

  • Aura CárdenasEmail author
  • Ana Moliner
  • Chiquinquirá Hontoria
  • Muhammad Ibrahim


Forests and agroforestry systems in the tropics play a decisive role in global carbon fixation strategies. The amount and type of coverage, along with the specific land use and land use change in a given area, determines whether carbon is stored or released into the atmosphere. The aim of this study was to evaluate the traditional silvopastoral systems (TSPS) through quantitative analysis of biomass and soil carbon storage whilst simultaneously qualitatively determining the ecological structure in terms of tree richness and diversity. The study was carried out in Matiguás, a sub-humid tropical region of Nicaragua, on five land use types: shrubland; intervened secondary forest; pasture with high tree density; pasture with low tree density and degraded pasture. Biomass carbon was estimated by allometric equations and soil organic carbon was evaluated at four depths (0–10, 10–20, 20–40 and 40–100 cm). Of the land uses studied, shrubland had the highest diversity. The biomass carbon ranged from 1.9 to 13.2 t C ha−1 for degraded pasture and intervened secondary forest, respectively. The highest soil organic carbon (SOC) storage at 1 m depth was for intervened secondary forest (163 t C ha−1), whereas degraded pastures had the lowest value (76 t C ha−1). Since SOC was the largest pool of total carbon in all cases, it should be evaluated down to a depth of at least 1 m. Increasing tree coverage in degraded and low-tree density pastures can contribute not only to enhance carbon sequestration but also to restore degraded lands in livestock landscapes.


Pastures Carbon sequestration Land use change Sub humid tropical conditions Soil organic carbon 



This study was carried out in the context of the Regional Integrated Silvopastoral Approaches to Ecosystem Management Project (RISEMP) pilot, 2002–2008, in Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Producción AgrariaUniversidad Politécnica de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y EnseñanzaTurrialbaCosta Rica

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