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Agroforestry in Europe: a review of the disappearance of traditional systems and development of modern agroforestry practices, with emphasis on experiences in Germany

An Erratum to this article was published on 23 April 2013

Abstract

Agroforestry is a new name for a rather old practice. From a historical point of view, various agroforestry systems existed in Europe, of which the wood pastures (Neolithicum), the Dehesas in Spain (~4,500 years old) and the Hauberg of the Siegerland (established in the Middle Age) are the most prominent. Other widespread systems in Europe were hedgerows, windbreaks and Streuobst (orchard intercropping). Due to mechanisation and intensification of agriculture, trees have been progressively removed from agricultural fields and traditional agroforestry systems slowly disappeared. Today, agroforestry systems are again increasing in interest as they offer the potential to solve important ecological and, especially, biodiversity problems, while at the same time enabling the production of food, wood products and fodder for cattle. Although agroforestry systems offer many advantages, many farmers are sceptical of these systems and are critical and risk-averse with regard to adopting new practices. However, in comparison to traditional systems, modern agroforestry systems can be adapted to current farming practices. By selecting suitable trees and appropriate tree management, high-quality timber can be produced without influencing agricultural crops excessively. In future, agroforestry systems will become increasingly important as they offer the prospect of producing woody perennials for bioenergy on the same land area as food and/or fodder plants, while enhancing overall biodiversity.

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Nerlich, K., Graeff-Hönninger, S. & Claupein, W. Agroforestry in Europe: a review of the disappearance of traditional systems and development of modern agroforestry practices, with emphasis on experiences in Germany. Agroforest Syst 87, 475–492 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-012-9560-2

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Keywords

  • Traditional agroforestry
  • Modern agroforestry
  • Management
  • High-quality timber
  • Short rotation coppice
  • Biodiversity