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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.

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