The Potential for Silvopastoralism to Enhance Biodiversity on Grassland Farms in Ireland

  • J. H. McAdamEmail author
  • P. M. McEvoy
Part of the Advances in Agroforestry book series (ADAG, volume 6)


In the western British Isles, pastoral agriculture with sheep and cattle is the dominant land use. Current changes in EU policy, specifically the implementation of farm decoupling through the Single Farm Payment, enforcing the Nitrates Directive, environmental cross-compliance measures and other initiatives within the Rural Development Plan have driven the need to find alternative land use systems which can enhance biodiversity on grassland farms. Ireland has a moist, temperate climate which suits intensive livestock production systems, and these have negatively impacted on the region's biodiversity. This represents a microcosm of the general problems facing such systems in the British Isles and north western Europe. The integration of farm woodlands and trees onto farmland can address these issues. Silvopastoral systems, where wide spaced trees are planted into grassland have been shown to be compatible with conventional grassland systems, increase biodiversity and enhance the farmed landscape. Research in Ireland with sheep on upland vegetation and sheep and cattle on lowland pastures has shown that such systems can reduce nutrient leakage, increase some invertebrates, birds and flora and create spatial heterogeneity in the canopy and soil. This delivers much more sustainable agroecosystems while still allowing the combination of farming and rural economic development. Such systems should be targeted to and adapted for farmers who wish to develop conservation, amenity, recreation and environmental ‘goods’ on their farms, be compatible with current agri-environment measures, the organic farming sector and rural community group objectives. These objectives are common to the British Isles and the example of their applicability in Ireland should encourage others to apply them more widely in the region.


Rural development silvopastoral systems agri-environment policy forestry 


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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Plant Science and Biometrics DivisionAgri-Food and Biosciences InstituteBelfastUK

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