Skip to main content

Potential of agroforestry for carbon sequestration and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from soils in the tropics

Abstract

Losses of carbon (C) stocks in terrestrial ecosystems and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are challenges that scientists and policy makers have been facing in the recent past. Intensified agricultural practices lead to a reduction in ecosystem carbon stocks, mainly due to removal of aboveground biomass as harvest and loss of carbon as CO2 through burning and/or decomposition. Evidence is emerging that agroforestry systems are promising management practices to increase aboveground and soil C stocks and reduce soil degradation, as well as to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. In the humid tropics, the potential of agroforestry (tree-based) systems to sequester C in vegetation can be over 70 Mg C ha−1, and up to 25 Mg ha−1 in the top 20 cm of soil. In degraded soils of the sub-humid tropics, improved fallow agroforestry practices have been found to increase top soil C stocks up to 1.6 Mg C ha−1 y−1 above continuous maize cropping. Soil C accretion is linked to the structural development of the soil, in particular to increasing C in water stable aggregates (WSA). A review of agroforestry practices in the humid tropics showed that these systems were able to mitigate N2O and CO2 emissions from soils and increase the CH4 sink strength compared to cropping systems. The increase in N2O and CO2 emissions after addition of legume residues in improved fallow systems in the sub-humid tropics indicates the importance of using lower quality organic inputs and increasing nutrient use efficiency to derive more direct and indirect benefits from the system. In summary, these examples provide evidence of several pathways by which agroforestry systems can increase C sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Baggs E.M., Cadisch G., Verchot L.V., Millar N. and Ndufa J.K. 2002b. Environmental impacts of tropical agricultural systems: N2O emissions and organic matter management. In: 17th World Soil Science Conference ’Soil Science: Confronting New Realities in the 21st Century’. CD-Paper No. 1545. International Soil Sciences Congress, Bangkok, Thailand, pp. 1– 11.

  2. E.M. Baggs N. Millar J.K. Ndufa G. Cadisch (2001) Effect of residue quality on N2O emissions from tropical soils R.M. Rees B.C. Ball C.D. Campbell C.A. Watson (Eds) Sustainable Management of Soil Organic Matter. CAB International Wallingford, UK 120–125

    Google Scholar 

  3. E.M. Baggs R.M. Rees K. Castle A. Scott K.A. Smith A.J.A. Vinten (2002) ArticleTitleNitrous oxide release from soils receiving N-rich crop residues and paper mill sludge in eastern Scotland Agric. Ecosyst. Environ 90 109–123 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DC%2BD38XksVSgtLc%3D Occurrence Handle10.1016/S0167-8809(01)00175-X

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. E.M. Baggs R.M. Rees K.A. Smith A.J.A. Vinten (2000) ArticleTitleNitrous oxide emission from soils after incorporating crop residues Soil Use Manage 16 82–87 Occurrence Handle10.1111/j.1475-2743.2000.tb00179.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. N.H. Batjes W.G. Sombroek (1997) ArticleTitlePossibilities for carbon sequestration in tropical and subtropical soils Global Change Biol 3 161–173 Occurrence Handle10.1046/j.1365-2486.1997.00062.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. A.F. Bouwman K.W. Hoek Particlevan der J.G.J. Olivier (1995) ArticleTitleUncertainties in the global source distribution of nitrous oxide J. Geophys. Res 100 2785–2800 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK2MXls1Kiurg%3D Occurrence Handle10.1029/94JD02946

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. N.C. Brady (1996) ArticleTitleAlternatives to slash-and-burn: a global imperative Agric. Ecosyst. Environ 58 3–11 Occurrence Handle10.1016/0167-8809(96)00650-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. G. Cadisch O.C. Oliveira Particlede R. Cantarutti E. Carvalho S. Urquiaga (1998) The role of legume quality in soil carbon dynamics in savannah ecosystems L. Bergstrom H. Kirchmann (Eds) Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics in Natural and Agricultural Tropical Ecosystems CAB International Wallingford, UK 47–70

    Google Scholar 

  9. E.A. Davidson M. Keller H.E. Erickson L.V. Verchot E. Veldkamp (2000) ArticleTitleTesting a conceptual model of soil emissions of nitrous and nitric oxide BioScience 50 667–680 Occurrence Handle10.1641/0006-3568(2000)050[0667:TACMOS]2.0.CO;2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. E.A. Davidson P.A. Matson P.D. Brooks (1996) ArticleTitleNitrous oxide emission controls and inorganic nitrogen dynamics in fertilized tropical agricultural soils Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J 60 1145–1152 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK28Xktl2qsb8%3D Occurrence Handle10.2136/sssaj1996.03615995006000040027x

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. de Oliveira O.C., Cadisch G., Whitmore A., de Oliveira I.P., Urquiaga S., Alves A. and Boddey R.M. 2005. Fractionation of organic matter in soil from under a chronosequence of Brachiaria pastures of advancing age and decreasing productivity. Eur. J. Soil Sci. (in press).

  12. R.P. Detwiler (1986) ArticleTitleLand use change and the global carbon cycle: the role of tropical soil Biogeochemistry 2 67–93 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaL28XksF2qsLw%3D Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF02186966

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. R.K. Dixon K.A. Andrasko F.A. Sussman M.A. Lavinson M.C. Trexler T.S. Vinson (1993) ArticleTitleTropical forests: their past, present and potential future role in the terrestrial carbon budget Water Air Soil Pollut 70 71–94 Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF01105022

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. H.E. Erickson M. Keller (1997) ArticleTitleTropical land use change and soil emissions of nitrogen oxides Soil Use Manage 13 278–287 Occurrence Handle10.1111/j.1475-2743.1997.tb00599.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. H.E. Erickson M. Keller E.A. Davidson (2001) ArticleTitleNitrogen oxide fluxes and nitrogen cycling during post agricultural succession and forest fertilization in the humid tropics Ecosystems 4 67–84 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3MXmvV2ru78%3D Occurrence Handle10.1007/s100210000060

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. C. Feller (1993) Organic inputs, soil organic matter and functional soil organic compartments in low-activity clay soils in tropical zones K. Mulongoy R. Merckx (Eds) Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Sustainability of Tropical Agriculture IITA/KU Leuven John Wiley New York, USA 77–88

    Google Scholar 

  17. C. Feller A. Albrecht D. Tessier (1996) Aggregation and organic matter storage in Kaolinitic and smectitic tropical soils M.R. Carter B.A. Stewart (Eds) Structure and Organic Matter Storage in Agricultural Soils Adv. Soil Sci CRC Lewis Publishers 309–360

    Google Scholar 

  18. S.A.P. Fernandes M. Bernoux C.C. Cerri B.J. Feigl M.C. Piccolo (2002) ArticleTitleSeasonal variation of soil chemical properties and CO2 and CH4 fluxes in unfertilized and P-fertilized pastures in an ultisol of the Brazilian Amazon Geoderma 107 227–241 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DC%2BD38XjtlKmu7k%3D Occurrence Handle10.1016/S0016-7061(01)00150-1

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. M.J. Fisher I.M. Rao M.A. Ayarza C.E. Lascano J.I. Sanz R.J. Thomas R.R. Vera (1994) ArticleTitleCarbon storage by introduced deep-rooted grasses in the South American Savannas Nature 371 236–238 Occurrence Handle10.1038/371236a0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. InstitutionalAuthorNameFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (2001) Carbon sequestration in soils: Proposals for land management in arid and tropical area FAO Rome Italy

    Google Scholar 

  21. M.P. Gichuru (1991) ArticleTitleResidual effects of natural bush, Cajanus cajan and Tephrosia candida on the productivity of an acid soil in southern Nigeria Plant Soil 134 31–36 Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF00010714

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. L.B. Guo R.M. Gifford (2002) ArticleTitleSoil carbon stocks and land use change: a meta analysis Global Change Biol 8 345–360 Occurrence Handle10.1046/j.1354-1013.2002.00486.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. E.G. Gregorich K.J. Greer D.W. Anderson B.C. Liang (1998) ArticleTitleCarbon distribution and losses: erosion and deposition effects Soil Tillage Res 47 291–302 Occurrence Handle10.1016/S0167-1987(98)00117-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. K. Hairiah S.M. Sitompul M. Noordwijk Particlevan C.A. Palm (2001) stocks of tropical land use systems as part of the global carbon balance: effects of forest conversion and options for clean development activities. Alternatives to slash-and-burn (ASB) Lecture Note 4 ICRAF Bogor, Indonesia

    Google Scholar 

  25. InstitutionalAuthorNameIPCC (2000) Land use, land-use change, and forestry Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Cambridge University Press Cambridge UK

    Google Scholar 

  26. B.T. Kang F.E. Caveness G. Tian G.O. Kolawole (1999) ArticleTitleLong-term alley cropping with four species on an Alfisol in Southwest Nigeria - effect on crop performance, soil chemical properties and nematode population Nutr. Cycl. Agroecosyst 54 145–155 Occurrence Handle10.1023/A:1009757830508

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. M. Keller W.A. Kaplan S.C. Wofsy (1986) ArticleTitleEmissions of N2O, CH4 and CO2 from tropical forest soils J. Geophys. Res 91 IssueID11 791–802

    Google Scholar 

  28. M. Keller M.E. Mitre R.F. Stallard (1990) ArticleTitleConsumption of atmospheric methane in soils of Central Panama: Effects of agricultural development Global Biogeochem. Cycles 4 21–27 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK3MXksVyhsL8%3D Occurrence Handle10.1029/GB004i001p00021

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. M. Keller W.A. Reiners (1994) ArticleTitleSoil-atmosphere exchange of nitrous oxide, nitric oxide, and methane under secondary succession of pasture to forest in the Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica Global Biogeochem. Cycles 8 399–409 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK2MXisFWit7s%3D Occurrence Handle10.1029/94GB01660

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. O.N. Krankina R.K. Dixon (1994) ArticleTitleForest management options to conserve and sequester terrestrial carbon in the Russian Federation World Resour. Rev 6 88–101

    Google Scholar 

  31. R. Lal (2000) Soil Quality and Soil Erosion CRC Press Boca Rason Florida 352

    Google Scholar 

  32. R.D. Lasco P.D. Suson (1999) ArticleTitleA Leucaena leucocephala-based indigenous fallow system in central Philippines: the Naalad system Int. Tree Crops J. 10 161–174 Occurrence Handle10.1080/01435698.1999.9753002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. A.E. Lugo S. Brown (1993) ArticleTitleManagement of tropical soils as sinks or sources of atmospheric carbon Plant Soil 149 27–41 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK3sXktVOrtL0%3D Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF00010760

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. F. Luizao P.A. Matson G. Livingston R. Luizao P. Vitousek (1989) ArticleTitleNitrous oxide flux following tropical land clearing Global Biogeochem. Cycles 3 281–285 Occurrence Handle10.1029/GB003i003p00281

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. B. Lundgren (1982) ArticleTitleIntroduction [Editorial] Agr. Syst 1 3–6 Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF00044324

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. P.A. Matson R. Naylor I. Ortiz-Monasterio (1998) ArticleTitleIntegration of environmental, agronomic, and economic aspects of fertilizer management Science 280 112–115 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK1cXitlWrt70%3D Occurrence Handle10.1126/science.280.5360.112

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Millar N. 2002. The effect of improved fallow residue quality on nitrous oxide emissions from tropical soils. Ph.D. Thesis, University of London, 322 pp.

  38. N. Millar J.K. Ndufa G. Cadisch E.M. Baggs (2004) ArticleTitleNitrous oxide emissions following incorporation of improved-fallow residues in the humid tropics Global Biogeochem. Cycles 18 GB1032 Occurrence Handle10.1029/2003GB002114

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. A. Mosier D. Schimel D. Valentine K. Bronson W. Parton (1991) ArticleTitleMethane and nitrous oxide fluxes in native, fertilized and cultivated grasslands Nature 350 330–332 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK3MXitFehsLg%3D Occurrence Handle10.1038/350330a0

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. D. Murdiyarso K. Hairiah Y.A. Husin U.R. Wasrin (1997) Gas emissions and carbon balance in slash-and-burn practices M. Noordwijk Particlevan T.P. Tomich D.P. Garrity A.M. Fagi (Eds) Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn Research in Indonesia ASB-Indonesia Report No. 6 Bogor, Indonesia 35–58

    Google Scholar 

  41. D. Murdiyarso D.A. Suyanto M. Widodo (2000) Spatial modelling of land-cover change to assess its impacts on aboveground carbon stocks: case study in Pelepat sub-watershed of batanghari watershed, Jambi, Sumatra D. Murdiyarso H. Tsuruta (Eds) The Impacts of Land-use/cover Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Tropical Asia IC-SEA Bogor, Indonesia and NIAES, Tsukuba, Japan 107–128

    Google Scholar 

  42. Mutuo P.K. 2003. Potential of improved tropical legume fallows and zero tillage practices for soil organic carbon sequestration. Ph.D. Thesis, University of London.

  43. P.K.R. Nair (1990) Prospects for agroforestry in the tropics World Bank Technical Paper No. 131 World Bank Washington, DC, USA

    Google Scholar 

  44. Ndufa J.K. 2001. Nitrogen dynamics and soil organic matter benefits to maize in pure and mixed species fallows in western Kenya. Ph.D. Thesis, Imperial College at Wye, University of London.

  45. J.F.M. Onim M. Mathuva K. Otieno H.A. Fitzhugh (1990) ArticleTitleSoil fertility changes and response of maize and beans to green manures of Leucaena, Sesbania and pigeon pea Agr. Syst 12 197–215 Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF00123474

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. C.A. Palm J.C. Alegre L. Arevalo P.K. Mutuo A. Mosier R. Coe (2002) ArticleTitleNitrous oxide and methane fluxes in six different land use systems in the Peruvian Amazon Global Biogeochem. Cycles 16 1073 Occurrence Handle10.1029/2001GB001855

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. C.A. Palm C. Gachengo R. Delve G. Cadisch K.E. Giller (2001) ArticleTitleOrganic inputs for soil fertility management: Application of an organic resource database Agric. Ecosyst. Environ 83 27–42 Occurrence Handle10.1016/S0167-8809(00)00267-X

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. C.A. Palm R.A. Houghton J.M. Mellilo D.L. Scole (1986) ArticleTitleAtmospheric carbon dioxide from deforestation in Southeast Asia Biotropica 18 177–188 Occurrence Handle10.2307/2388482

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Palm C.A., Woomer P.L., Alegre J.C., Arevalo L., Castilla C., Cordeiro D.G. et al. 2000. Carbon sequestration and trace gas emissions in slash-and-burn and alternative land-uses in the humid tropics. ASB Climate Change Working Group Final Report, Phase II. Nairobi, Kenya.

  50. K. Paustian O. Andr’en H.H. Janzen R. Lal P. Smith G. Tian et al. (1997) ArticleTitleAgricultural soils as a sink to mitigate CO2 emissions Soil Use Manage 13 1–5 Occurrence Handle10.1111/j.1475-2743.1997.tb00594.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. L.B. Prasetyo G. Saito H. Tsuruta (2000) Estimation of greenhouse gas emissions using remote sensing and GIS techniques in Sumatra, Indonesia D. Murdiyarso H. Tsuruta (Eds) The Impacts of Land-use/Cover Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Tropical Asia IC-SEA Bogor, Indonesia and NIAES, Tsukuba, Japan 35–52

    Google Scholar 

  52. D. Prinz (1986) ArticleTitleIncreasing the productivity of smallholder farming systems by introduction of planted fallows Plant Res. Develop 24 31–56

    Google Scholar 

  53. R.L. Sass (1994) Short summary chapter for methane K. Minami A. Mosier R. Sass (Eds) CH4 and N2O: Global Emissions and Controls from Rice Fields and Other Agricultural and Industrial Sources. NIAES, Yodendo Publishers Tokyo, Japan 1–7

    Google Scholar 

  54. P. Schroeder (1993) ArticleTitleAgroforestry systems: Integrated land use to store and conserve carbon Climate Res 3 53–60 Occurrence Handle10.3354/cr003053

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. P.A. Steudler J.M. Melillo B.J. Feigl C. Neill M.C. Piccolo C. Cerri (1996) ArticleTitleConsequences of forest-to-pasture conversion on CH4 fluxes in the Brazilian Amazon Basin J. Geophys. Res 101 547–554 Occurrence Handle10.1029/96JD01551

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. T.P. Tomich M. Noordwijk Particlevan S. Budidarsono A. Gillison T. Kusumanto D. Murdiyarso et al. (1998) Alternatives to slas hand- burn in Indonesia: Summary Report and Synthesis of Phase II ICRAF Bogor, Indonesia

    Google Scholar 

  57. E.F. Torquebiau F. Kwesiga (1996) ArticleTitleRoot development in Sesbania sesban fallow-maize system in eastern Zambia Agr. Syst 34 193–211 Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF00148162

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. H. Tsuruta S. Ishizuka S. Ueda D. Murdiyarso (2000) Seasonal and spatial variations of CO2, CH4, and N2O fluxes from the surface soils in different forms of land-use/cover in Jambi, Sumatra D. Murdiyarso H. Tsuruta (Eds) The impacts of Land-use/Cover Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Tropical Asia IC-SEA Bogor, Indonesia and NIAES, Tsukuba, Japan 7–30

    Google Scholar 

  59. M. Noordwijk Particlevan C. Cerri P.L. Woomer K. Nugroho M. Bernoux (1997) ArticleTitleSoil carbon dynamics in the humid tropical forest zone Geoderma 79 187–225 Occurrence Handle10.1016/S0016-7061(97)00042-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. E. Veldkamp M. Keller (1997) ArticleTitleNitrogen oxide emissions from a banana plantation in the humid tropics J. Geophys. Res 102 15889–15898 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK2sXlsVKiurw%3D Occurrence Handle10.1029/97JD00767

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  61. L.V. Verchot E.A. Davidson J.H. Cattanio I.L. Ackerman H.E. Erickson M. Keller (1999) ArticleTitleLand use change and biogeochemical controls of nitrogen oxide emissions from soils in eastern Amazon Global Biogeochem. Cycles 13 31–46 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK1MXhs12kt7g%3D Occurrence Handle10.1029/1998GB900019

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  62. L.V. Verchot E.A. Davidson J.H. Cattanio I.L. Ackerman (2000) ArticleTitleLand-use change and biogeochemical controls on methane fluxes in soils of eastern Amazon Ecosystems 3 41–56 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3cXhvFalsLk%3D Occurrence Handle10.1007/s100210000009

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  63. P. Vitousek P. Matson C. Volkmann J. Mass G. Garcia (1989) ArticleTitleNitrous oxide flux from dry tropical forests Global Biogeochem. Cycles 3 375–382 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK3MXhsVOmsLk%3D Occurrence Handle10.1029/GB003i004p00375

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  64. K.F. Wiersum (1986) Ecological aspects of agroforestry with special emphasis on tree-soil interaction: lecture notes. FONC project Communication 16 Fakultas Kerhuanan Universiti Gadjah MadaJog Jakarta Indonesia

    Google Scholar 

  65. J.K. Winjum R.K. Dixon P.E. Schroeder (1992) ArticleTitleEstimating the global potential of forest and agroforest management practices to sequester carbon Water Air Soil Pollut 64 213–228 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DyaK38XksFCqsbs%3D Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF00477103

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  66. P.L. Woomer C.A. Palm J. Alegre C. Castilla D.G. Cordeiro K. Hairiah et al. (2000) Slash-and-burn effects on carbon stocks in the humid tropics R. Lal J.M. Kimble B.A. Stewart (Eds) Global Climate Change and Tropical Ecosystems Adv. Soil Sci CRC Press Inc. Boca Raton, Florida, USA 99–115

    Google Scholar 

  67. A. Young (1997) Agroforestry for Soil Management, 2nd ed CAB International Wallingford, UK 320

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Albrecht.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mutuo, P.K., Cadisch, G., Albrecht, A. et al. Potential of agroforestry for carbon sequestration and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from soils in the tropics. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 71, 43–54 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-004-5285-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Agroforestry systems
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Humid tropics
  • Sub-humid tropics