Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Reconciling productivity with protection of the environment: Is temperate agroforestry the answer?

  • Jo Smith (a1), Bruce D. Pearce (a1) and Martin S. Wolfe (a1)

Meeting the needs for a growing world population calls for multifunctional land use, which can meet the multiple demands of food and fuel production, environmental and biodiversity protection, and has the capacity for adaptation or resilience to climate change. Agroforestry, a land-use system that integrates trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock production, has been identified by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) as a ‘win–win’ approach that balances the production of commodities (food, feed, fuel, fiber, etc.) with non-commodity outputs such as environmental protection and cultural and landscape amenities. Evidence is now coming to light that supports the promotion of agroforestry in temperate developed countries as a sustainable alternative to the highly industrialized agricultural model with its associated negative environmental externalities. This paper reviews this evidence within the ‘ecosystem services’ framework to evaluate agroforestry as part of a multifunctional working landscape in temperate regions. Establishing trees on agricultural land can help to mitigate many of the negative impacts of agriculture, for example by regulating soil, water and air quality, supporting biodiversity, reducing inputs by natural regulation of pests and more efficient nutrient cycling, and by modifying local and global climates. The challenge now lies in promoting the adoption of agroforestry as a mainstream land use through research, dissemination of information and policy changes.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

3 M.G.R. Cannell , M. Van Noordwijk , and C.K. Ong 1996. The central agroforestry hypothesis: The trees must acquire resources that the crop would not otherwise acquire. Agroforestry Systems 34:2731.

4 S. Jose 2009. Agroforestry for ecosystem services and environmental benefits: An overview. Agroforestry Systems 76:110.

10 P.K.R. Nair 1985. Classification of agroforestry systems. Agroforestry Systems 3:97128.

13 R.K. Dixon , J.K. Winjum , K.J. Andrasko , J.J. Lee , and P. Schroeder 1994. Integrated land-use systems: Assessment of promising agroforest and alternative land-use practices to enhance carbon conservation and sequestration. Climate Change 27:7192.

14 D.J. Mead 1995. The role of agroforestry in industrialised nations: The southern hemisphere perspective with special emphasis on Australia and New Zealand. Agroforestry Systems 31:143156.

16 B. Tamang , M.G. Andreu , and D.L. Rockwood 2010. Microclimate patterns on the leeside of single-row tree windbreaks during different weather conditions in Florida farms: Implications for improved crop production. Agroforestry Systems 79(1):111122.

18 L. Bharati , K.H. Lee , T.M. Isenhart , and R.C. Schultz 2002. Soil–water infiltration under crops, pasture and established riparian buffer in Midwest USA. Agroforestry Systems 56:249257.

19 T. Seobi , R.P. Udawatta , S.H. Anderson , and C.J. Gantzer 2005. Influence of grass and agroforestry buffer strips on soil hydraulic properties for an albaqualf. Soil Science Society of America Journal 69:893901.

20 G. Gea-Izquierdo , G. Montero , and I. Canellas 2009. Changes in limiting resources determine spatio-temporal variability in tree–grass interactions. Agroforestry Systems 76:375387.

23 T.J. Benjamin , W.L. Hoover , J.R. Seifert , and A.R. Gillespie 2000. Defining competition vectors in a temperate alley cropping system in the midwestern USA 4. The economic return of ecological knowledge. Agroforestry Systems 48:7993.

25 M.J.C. Brownlow , P.T. Dorward , and S.P. Carruthers 2005. Integrating natural woodland with pig production in the United Kingdom: An investigation of potential performance and interactions. Agroforestry Systems 64:251263.

26 A. Rigueiro-Rodríguez , E. Fernández-Núnez , M.P. Gonzalez-Hernandez , J. McAdam , and M.R. Mosquera-Losada 2008. Agroforestry Systems in Europe: Productive, Ecological and Social Perspectives. In A. Rigueiro-Rodríguez (eds). Agroforestry in Europe: Current Status and Future Prospects. Springer, Belfast. p. 4365.

27 C. Yates , P. Dorward , G. Hemery , and P. Cook 2007. The economic viability and potential of a novel poultry agroforestry system. Agroforestry Systems 69:1328.

28 R. Benavides , G.B. Douglas , and K. Osoro 2009. Silvopastoralism in New Zealand: Review of effects of evergreen and deciduous trees on pasture dynamics. Agroforestry Systems 76:327350.

29 J. Tyndall and J. Colletti 2007. Mitigating swine odour with strategically designed shelterbelt systems: A review. Agroforestry Systems 69:4565.

30 C. Jones , J.H. Lawton , and M. Shachak 1994. Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos 69:373386.

31 C. Jones , J.H. Lawton , and M. Shachak 1997. Positive and negative effects of organisms as physical ecosystem engineers. Ecology 78(7):19461957.

32 P.R. Bird 1998. Tree windbreaks and shelter benefits to pasture in temperate grazing systems. Agroforestry Systems 41:3554.

34 G. Moreno , J.J. Obrador , E. Garcia , E. Cubera , M.J. Montero , F. Pulido , and C. Dupraz 2007. Driving competitive and facilitative interactions in oak dehesas through management practices. Agroforestry Systems 70:2540.

35 Q. Wang and J.F. Shogren 1992. Characteristics of the crop–Pawlonia system in China. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 39:145152.

37 C.P. Chirko , M.A. Gold , P.V. Nguyen , and J.P. Jiang 1996. Influence of direction and distance from trees on wheat yield and photosynthetic photon flux density (Qp) in a Paulownia and wheat intercropping system. Forest Ecology and Management 83:171180.

38 P.E. Reynolds , J.A. Simpson , N.V. Thevathasan , and A.M. Gordon 2007. Effects of tree competition on corn and soybean photosynthesis, growth, and yield in a temperate tree-based agroforestry intercropping system in southern Ontario, Canada. Ecological Engineering 29:362371.

39 R. Joffre and S. Rambal 1993. How tree cover influences the water balance of Mediterranean rangelands. Ecology 74(2):570582.

41 F.M. Mitlohner , J.L. Morrow , J.W. Dailey , S.C. Wilson , M.L. Galyean , M.F. Miller , and J.J. McGlone 2001. Shade and water misting effects on behaviour, physiology, performance and carcass traits of heat-stressed feedlot cattle. Journal of Animal Science 79:23272335.

42 U. Karki and M.S. Goodman 2009. Cattle distribution and behaviour in southern-pine silvopasture versus open-pasture. Agroforestry Systems 78(2):159168.

43 M.S. Dawkins , P.A. Cook , M.J. Whittingham , K.A. Mansell , and A.E. Harper 2003. What makes free-range broiler chickens range? In situ measurement of habitat preferences. Animal Behaviour 66:151160.

45 P.J. Waller , G. Bernes , S.M. Thamsborg , A. Sukura , S.H. Richter , K. Ingebrigsten , and J. Höglund 2001. Plants as de-worming agents of livestock in the Nordic countries: Historical perspective, popular beliefs and prospects for the future. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 42:3144.

46 P. Schroeder 1994. Carbon storage benefits of agroforestry systems. Agroforestry Systems 27:8997.

47 A. Albrecht and S.T. Kandji 2003. Carbon sequestration in tropical agroforestry. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 99(1–3):1527.

48 R. Lal 2004. Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global climate change and food security. Science 304:16231627.

51 M.M. Schoeneberger 2009. Agroforestry: Working trees for sequestering carbon on agricultural lands. Agroforestry Systems 75:2737.

52 R.K. Dixon 1995. Agroforestry systems: Sources or sinks of greenhouse gases? Agroforestry Systems 31:99116.

53 P.K.R. Nair , B.M. Kumar , and V.D. Nair 2009. Agroforestry as a strategy for carbon sequestration. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 172(1):1023.

54 T.A. Volk , L.P. Abrahamson , C.A. Nowak , L.B. Smart , P.J. Tharakan , and E.H. White 2006. The development of short-rotation willow in the northeastern United States for bioenergy and bioproducts, agroforestry and phytoremediation. Biomass and Bioenergy 30:715727.

55 D.O. Hall and J.I. House 1994. Trees and biomass energy: Carbon storage and/or fossil fuel substitution. Biomass and Bioenergy 6(1/2):1130.

56 R.L. Rowe , N.R. Street , and G. Taylor 2009. Identifying potential environmental impacts of large-scale deployments of dedicated bioenergy crops in the UK. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 13(1):271290.

57 P. Mutuo , G. Cadisch , A. Albrecht , C.A. Palm , and L. Verchot 2005. Potential of agroforestry for carbon sequestration and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from soils in the tropics. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 71:4354.

60 M.C. Dougherty , N.V. Thevathasan , A.M. Gordon , H. Lee , and J. Kort 2009. Nitrate and Escherichia coli NAR analysis in tile drain effluent from a mixed tree intercrop and monocrop system. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 131:7784.

61 R.P. Udawatta , J.J. Krstansky , G.S. Henderson , and H.E. Garrett 2002. Agroforestry practices, runoff, and nutrient loss: A paired watershed comparison. Journal of Environmental Quality 31:12141225.

63 S.H. Anderson , R.P. Udawatta , T. Seobi , and H.E. Garrett 2009. Soil water content and infiltration in agroforestry buffer strips. Agroforestry Systems 75:516.

64 R.P. Udawatta , H.E. Garrett , and R.L. Kallenbach 2010. Agroforestry and grass buffer effects on water quality in grazed pastures. Agroforestry Systems 79(1):8187.

65 M.G. Dosskey 2001. Toward quantifying water pollution abatement in response to installing buffers on crop land. Environmental Management 28(5):577598.

67 B. Chu , K.W. Goyne , S.H. Anderson , C.-H. Lin , and R.P. Udawatta 2010. Veterinary antibiotic sorption to agroforestry buffer, grass buffer and cropland soils. Agroforestry Systems 79(1):6780.

68 M.A. Bari and N.J. Schofield 1991. Effects of agroforestry-pasture associations on groundwater level and salinity. Agroforestry Systems 16:1331.

69 P. Aronsson and K. Perttu 2001. Willow vegetation filters for wastewater treatment and soil remediation combined with biomass production. Forest Chronicle 77:293299.

71 J. Mirck , J.G. Isebrands , T. Verwijst , and S. Ledin 2005. Development of short-rotation willow coppice systems for environmental purposes in Sweden. Biomass and Bioenergy 28(2):219228.

72 A.G. Wilkinson 1999. Poplars and willows for soil erosion control in New Zealand. Biomass and Bioenergy 16:263274.

73 P.M. Blaschke , N.A. Trustrum , and R.C. DeRose 1992. Ecosystem processes and sustainable land use in New Zealand steeplands. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 41:153178.

74 W.T. Stamps and M.J. Linit 1998. Plant diversity and arthropod communities: Implications for temperate agroforestry. Agroforestry Systems 39:7389.

76 M. Schmidt and T. Tscharntke 2005. The role of perennial habitats for Central European farmland spiders. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 105(1–2):235242.

77 M.E. Dix , R.J. Johnson , M.O. Harrell , R.M. Case , R.J. Wright , L. Hodges , J.R. Brandle , M.M. Schoeneberger , N.J. Sunderman , R.L. Fitzmaurice , L.J. Young , and K.G. Hubbard 1995. Influences of trees on abundance of natural enemies of insect pests: A review. Agroforestry Systems 29:303311.

78 L.B. Best , R.C. Whitmore , and G.M. Booth 1990. Use of cornfields by birds during the breeding season: The importance of edge habitat. American Midland Naturalist 123:8499.

79 L. Peacock and S. Herrick 2000. Responses of the willow beetle Phratora vulgatissima to genetically and spatially diverse Salix spp. plantations. Journal of Applied Ecology 37:821831.

82 R.K. Peng , L.D. Incoll , S.L. Sutton , C. Wright , and A. Chadwick 1993. Diversity of airborne arthropods in a silvoarable agroforestry system. Journal of Applied Ecology 30:551562.

84 W.T. Stamps , R.L. McGraw , L. Godsey , and T.L. Woods 2009. The ecology and economics of insect pest management in nut tree alley cropping systems in the Midwestern United States. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 131:48.

85 A. Corbett and J.A. Rosenheim 1996. Impact of a natural enemy overwintering refuge and its interaction with the surrounding landscape. Ecological Entomology 21(2):155164.

86 B.C. Murphy , J.A. Rosenheim , and J. Granett 1996. Habitat diversification for improving biological control: Abundance of Anagrus epos (Hymenoptera: Myrmaridae) in grape vineyards. Environmental Entomology 25(2):495504.

87 E. Fürher and P. Fischer 1991. Towards integrated control of Cephalcia abietis, a defoliator of Norway Spruce in central Europe. Forest Ecology and Management 39:8795.

88 J. Griffiths , D.S. Phillips , S.G. Compton , C. Wright , and L.D. Incoll 1998. Responses of slug numbers and slug damage to crops in a silvoarable agroforestry landscape. Journal of Applied Ecology 35:252260.

89 A.D. Manning , P. Gibbons , and D.B. Lindenmayer 2009. Scattered trees: A complementary strategy for facilitating adaptive responses to climate change in modified landscapes? Journal of Applied Ecology 46:915919.

90 S.A. Bhagwat , K.J. Willis , H.J.B. Birks , and R.J. Whittaker 2008. Agroforestry: A refuge for tropical biodiversity? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23(5):261267.

91 J.A. McNeely and G. Schroth 2006. Agroforestry and biodiversity conservation—traditional practices, present dynamics, and lessons for the future. Biodiversity and Conservation 15:549554.

92 C.A. Harvey and J.A. Gonzalez-Villalobos 2007. Agroforestry systems conserve species-rich but modified assemblages of tropical birds and bats. Biodiversity and Conservation 16:22572292.

93 M. Bernier-Leduc , A. Vanasse , A. Olivier , D. Bussières , and C. Maisonneuve 2009. Avian fauna in windbreaks integrating shrubs that produce non-timber forest products. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 131:1624.

94 H.L. Puckett , J.R. Brandle , R.J. Johnson , and E.E. Blankenship 2009. Avian foraging patterns in crop field edges adjacent to woody habitat. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 131:915.

95 S.A. Berges , L.A.S. Moore , T.M. Isenhart , and R.C. Schultz 2010. Bird species diversity in riparian buffers, row crop fields, and grazed pastures within agriculturally dominated watersheds. Agroforestry Systems 79(1):97110.

96 M. Gelling , D.W. Macdonald , and F. Mathews 2007. Are hedgerows the route to increased farmland small mammal density? Use of hedgerows in British pastoral habitats. Landscape Ecology 22:10191032.

98 J. McAdam , P.J. Burgess , A.R. Graves , A. Rigueiro-Rodríguez , and M.R. Mosquera-Losada 2008. Classifications and functions of agroforestry systems in Europe. In A. Rigueiro-Rodríguez (eds). Agroforestry in Europe: Current Status and Future Prospects. Springer, Belfast. p. 2142.

101 D.E. Mercer and R.P. Miller 1998. Socioeconomic research in agroforestry: Progress, prospects, priorities. Agroforestry Systems 38:177193.

102 A.C. Yobterik , V.R. Timmer , and A.M. Gordon 1994. Screening agroforestry tree mulches for corn growth: A combined soil test, pot trial and plant analysis approach. Agroforestry Systems 25:153166.

103 N.W. Mungai , P.P. Motavalli , R.J. Kremer , and K.A. Nelson 2005. Spatial variation of soil enzyme activities and microbial functional diversity in temperate alley cropping systems. Biology and Fertility of Soils 42:129136.

104 R.P. Udawatta , R.J. Kremer , B.W. Adamson , and S.H. Anderson 2008. Variations in soil aggregate stability and enzyme activities in a temperate agroforestry practice. Applied Soil Ecology 39:153160.

105 S. Lacombe , R.L. Bradley , C. Hamel , and C. Beaulieu 2009. Do tree-based intercropping systems increase the diversity and stability of soil microbial communities? Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 131:2531.

106 S. Seiter , E.R. Ingham , and R.D. William 1999. Dynamics of soil fungal and bacterial biomass in a temperate climate alley cropping system. Applied Soil Ecology 12(2):139147.

107 K.H. Lee and S. Jose 2003. Soil respiration and microbial biomass in a pecan-cotton alley cropping system in Southern USA. Agroforestry Systems 58:4554.

108 I. Hijri , Z. Sykorova , F. Oehl , K. Ineichen , P. Mader , A. Wiemken , and D. Redecker 2006. Communities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in arable soils are not necessarily low in diversity. Molecular Ecology 15:22772289.

109 M.C. Rillig , S.F. Wright , and V.T. Eviner 2002. The role of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and glomalin in soil aggregation: Comparing effects of five plant species. Plant and Soil 238:325333.

110 M. Schädler , R. Brandl , and A. Kempel 2010. ‘Afterlife’ effects of mycorrhisation on the decomposition of plant residues. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42:521523.

111 V. Chifflot , D. Rivest , A. Olivier , A. Cogliastro , and D. Khasa 2009. Molecular analysis of arbuscular mycorrhizal community structure and spores distribution in tree-based intercropping and forest systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 131:3239.

112 J. Park , S.M. Newman , and S.H. Cousins 1994. The effects of poplar (P.trichocarpa×deltoides) on soil biological properties in a silvoarable system. Agroforestry Systems 25:111118.

113 G.W. Price and A.M. Gordon 1999. Spatial and temporal distribution of earthworms in a temperate intercropping system in southern Ontario, Canada. Agroforestry Systems 44:141149.

114 J. Porter , R. Costanza , H. Sandhu , L. Sigsgaard , and S. Wratten 2009. The value of producing food, energy and ecosystem services within an agro-ecosystem. Ambio 38(4):186193.

116 M. Oelbermann , R.P. Voroney , and A.M. Gordon 2004. Carbon sequestration in tropical and temperate agroforestry systems: A review with examples from Costa Rica and southern Canada. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 104:359377.

117 J. Smith , B. Pearce , and M.S. Wolfe 2012. A European perspective for developing modern multifunctional agroforestry systems for sustainable intensification. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, in press.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
  • ISSN: 1742-1705
  • EISSN: 1742-1713
  • URL: /core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 8
Total number of PDF views: 101 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 552 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.