Carbon Sequestration Potential of Agroforestry Systems

Volume 8 of the series Advances in Agroforestry pp 179-200


Linking Carbon, Biodiversity and Livelihoods Near Forest Margins: The Role of Agroforestry

  • Götz SchrothAffiliated withMars IncorporatedFederal University of Western Pará Email author 
  • , Maria do Socorro Souza da MotaAffiliated withFederal University of Western Pará
  • , Terry HillsAffiliated withConservation International
  • , Lorena Soto-PintoAffiliated withEl Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR)
  • , Iwan WijayantoAffiliated withConservation International-Indonesia
  • , Candra Wirawan AriefAffiliated withConservation International-Indonesia
  • , Yatziri ZepedaAffiliated withConservation International-Mexico

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Agroforestry systems distinguish themselves from other forms of agriculture through their ability to store higher amounts of carbon (C) in their biomass, and often also to conserve more biodiversity. However, in both regards they are generally inferior to forests. Therefore, the impact of agroforestry practices on landscape C stocks and biodiversity needs to be analyzed both in terms of the interactions between agroforestry and forest, which may be positive or negative, and in terms of the conservation of C and biodiversity in the farming systems themselves. This paper argues that in forest frontier situations, the most important characteristic of land use systems in terms of C and biodiversity conservation is to be “land-sparing” (i.e. minimizing forest conversion), which requires a certain level of intensification. In land use mosaics, on the other hand, where natural habitat has already been reduced to small fragments, land use practices should also be biodiversity-friendly and have high levels of C storage to complement those in natural vegetation. Agroforestry has a role to play in both situations by making land use more sustainable and by making inhabited reserves ecologically and economically more viable. The paper presents three case studies where different sets of incentives are used to provide communities with the means to conserve C and biodiversity on their land and adjacent forest. In the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico, C trading is combined with shade coffee (Coffea sp.) production to conserve and increase tree cover on farm land in biosphere reserves. In North Sumatra, Indonesia, coffee-growing communities receive technical and marketing support and assistance with legalizing their land tenure situation as incentives to stop forest conversion for coffee, with a prospect of adding C trading later. In the central Brazilian Amazon, communities reforest their land in an extractive reserve and offer reforestation credits on a local market while laying the basis for a more tree-based reserve economy. In all three cases, the bundling of various forms of incentives is meant to increase the resilience of the respective approach to market and policy changes. Approaches like these would benefit from a better integration of agricultural and forest policies.


Amazon Biosphere reserve Environmental service rewards Extractive reserve North Sumatra Sierra Madre de Chiapas