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Keywords:

  • biomass;
  • carbon-sequestration potential (CSP);
  • clean development mechanism (CDM);
  • greenhouse gases (GHG);
  • socio-economics;
  • soil carbon sequestration (SCS)

Abstract

During the past three decades, agroforestry has become recognized the world over as an integrated approach to sustainable land use because of its production and environmental benefits. Its recent recognition as a greenhouse gas–mitigation strategy under the Kyoto Protocol has earned it added attention as a strategy for biological carbon (C) sequestration. The perceived potential is based on the premise that the greater efficiency of integrated systems in resource (nutrients, light, and water) capture and utilization than single-species systems will result in greater net C sequestration. Available estimates of C-sequestration potential of agroforestry systems are derived by combining information on the aboveground, time-averaged C stocks and the soil C values; but they are generally not rigorous. Methodological difficulties in estimating C stock of biomass and the extent of soil C storage under varying conditions are compounded by the lack of reliable estimates of area under agroforestry. We estimate that the area currently under agroforestry worldwide is 1,023 million ha. Additionally, substantial extent of areas of unproductive crop, grass, and forest lands as well as degraded lands could be brought under agroforestry. The extent of C sequestered in any agroforestry system will depend on a number of site-specific biological, climatic, soil, and management factors. Furthermore, the profitability of C-sequestration projects will depend on the price of C in the international market, additional income from the sale of products such as timber, and the cost related to C monitoring. Our knowledge on these issues is unfortunately rudimentary. Until such difficulties are surmounted, the low-cost environmental benefit of agroforestry will continue to be underappreciated and underexploited.