Contribution of agroforests to landscape carbon storage

  • Götz Schroth
  • Lucio C. Bede
  • Artur O. Paiva
  • Camila R. Cassano
  • André M. Amorim
  • Deborah Faria
  • Eduardo Mariano-Neto
  • Adriana M. Z. Martini
  • Regina H. R. Sambuichi
  • Renato N. Lôbo
Original Article


While many studies have measured the carbon (C) stocks of traditional agroforests at the plot level, their contribution to overall landscape C storage has rarely been quantified. Here we demonstrate the significant contribution that traditional agroforests with shaded tree crops can make to landscape C storage, and thus climate change mitigation, focusing on the cocoa (Theobroma cacao) agroforests (locally known as cabrucas) of southern Bahia, Brazil. Using published allometric relationships and tree inventories of 55 shaded cocoa farms, 6 mature forests, 8 disturbed forests and 7 fallows, we calculate average aboveground C stocks of 87 and 46 Mg ha−1 in traditional and intensified cocoa agroforests, respectively, 183 Mg ha−1 in old-growth forests, 102 Mg ha−1 in disturbed forests and 33 Mg ha−1 in fallows. Based on the most recent land cover data available, we estimate that cocoa agroforests hold 59 % of the total aboveground C stocks of the tree dominated vegetation in this landscape, while forests hold 32 % and fallows hold 9 %. Carbon stocks of intensified cocoa agroforestry systems were only little over one-half of those of traditional agroforests, indicating a threat to landscape C stocks from current land use trends. We show that in agroforests as in natural forests, C stocks are highly concentrated in the largest trees. This suggests that the intensification of traditional agroforests, which generally involves increasing the density of cocoa and other tree crops and reducing the density of shade trees, is possible without greatly affecting their C storage if large trees are conserved. In order to conserve the climate stabilizing effect of traditional agroforests and steer necessary intensification measures towards climate-friendly solutions, we suggest that biodiversity and C-rich traditional agroforests should be included in current discussions about Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and/or their owners be rewarded for their environmental services through other incentive mechanisms.


Atlantic forest biome Brazil Climate change mitigation Cocoa Land use intensification Theobroma cacao 



The data collection and analysis benefited from support by CNPq (Grant 309303/ 2009-5) to AMA; the World Bank (Ecological Corridors Project and SEMARH-BA) to AMZM; FAPESP (scholarship 07/54888-1), the European Union, the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment and Seeds of Change to CRC; Boticário Foundation for the Protection of Nature and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to RHRS. The authors also are grateful for logistic support from the State University of Santa Cruz, the Institute of Socio-environmental Studies of Southern Bahia (IESB) and the CEPEC Herbarium and would like to thank the owners of the farms were the inventories were carried out. David Burslem kindly provided comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Götz Schroth
    • 1
    • 11
  • Lucio C. Bede
    • 2
  • Artur O. Paiva
    • 3
  • Camila R. Cassano
    • 4
    • 5
  • André M. Amorim
    • 4
    • 6
  • Deborah Faria
    • 4
  • Eduardo Mariano-Neto
    • 7
  • Adriana M. Z. Martini
    • 8
  • Regina H. R. Sambuichi
    • 9
  • Renato N. Lôbo
    • 10
  1. 1.SantarémBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto Terra BrasilisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  3. 3.WWF-BrazilBrasíliaBrazil
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesState University of Santa CruzIlhéusBrazil
  5. 5.Institute of Socio-Environmental Studies of Southern BahiaIlhéusBrazil
  6. 6.Herbarium CEPEC, CEPLACItabunaBrazil
  7. 7.Institute of BiologyFederal University of BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  8. 8.Institute of Biosciences, Department of EcologyUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  9. 9.Institute of Applied Economic ResearchBrasíliaBrazil
  10. 10.Difusão Consulting Ltd.BrasíliaBrazil
  11. 11.Rainforest AllianceWageningenNetherlands

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