Carbon sequestration: An underexploited environmental benefit of agroforestry systems

  • F. Montagnini
  • P. K. R. Nair
Part of the Advances in Agroforestry book series (ADAG, volume 1)


Agroforestry has importance as a carbon sequestration strategy because of carbon storage potential in its multiple plant species and soil as well as its applicability in agricultural lands and in reforestation. The potential seems to be substantial; but it has not been even adequately recognized, let alone exploited. Proper design and management of agroforestry practices can make them effective carbon sinks. As in other land-use systems, the extent of C sequestered will depend on the amounts of C in standing biomass, recalcitrant C remaining in the soil, and C sequestered in wood products. Average carbon storage by agroforestry practices has been estimated as 9, 21, 50, and 63 Mg C ha−1 in semiarid, subhumid, humid, and temperate regions. For smallholder agroforestry systems in the tropics, potential C sequestration rates range from 1.5 to 3.5 Mg C ha−1 yr−1. Agroforestry can also have an indirect effect on C sequestration when it helps decrease pressure on natural forests, which are the largest sink of terrestrial C. Another indirect avenue of C sequestration is through the use of agroforestry technologies for soil conservation, which could enhance C storage in trees and soils. Agroforestry systems with perennial crops may be important carbon sinks, while intensively managed agroforestry systems with annual crops are more similar to conventional agriculture. In order to exploit this vastly unrealized potential of C sequestration through agroforestry in both subsistence and commercial enterprises in the tropics and the temperate region, innovative policies, based on rigorous research results, have to be put in place.

Key words

Carbon market Kyoto Protocol PES (payment for environmental services) Policy framework Silvopasture Soil carbon 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Montagnini
    • 1
  • P. K. R. Nair
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.School of Forest Resources and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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