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Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation

  • ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation
  • ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, India
Biodiversity provides enormous direct economic benefits, an array
of indirect essential services through natural ecosystems, and plays a
prominent role in modulating ecosystem function and stability. It provide
farming systems and taxa the means to recycle nutrient, reduce insect,
pest and disease problems, control weed, maintain good water and soil
conditions, handle climate stresses while producing commodities
necessary for human survival. It is estimated that 1400 m ha of croplands
and agro-ecosystem may provide ecosystem services worth US$ 92 ha-1
per year in pollination, biological control, and food production amounting
to total US $ 128 x 109 per year (Costanza 1997). Moreover, Thrupp (1997)
explained several benefits provided through conservation of biodiversity
(Figure 1). The animal and plant diversity and the knowledge of
associated management of these resources are the assets with the farmers
which are important in marginal and difficult farm conditions. Higher
diversity allows greater access to available resources, and hence increased
net primary production and decreased nutrient losses. Diversity
management can constitute a central part of livelihood management
strategies of farmers and communities in different production system
(Rege et al. 2003). The multifunctional services of biodiversity in
amelioration of agro-ecosystems as given in Table 1 have also been
emphasized by both the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) and
the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for
Development (2008).
Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation
R Kaushalaushal
1, P, P
, P, P
, Pankank
ankaj Paj P
aj Paj P
aj Panan
2, S Sarv, S Sarv
, S Sarv, S Sarv
, S Sarvadeade
, JMS Tomaromar
and OP Chaturvediand OP Chaturvedi
and OP Chaturvediand OP Chaturvedi
and OP Chaturvedi44
ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Dehradun
ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation Research Centre, Chandigarh
3 College of Agriculture, Balaghat, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur
4 ICAR-Central Agroforestry Research Institute, Jhansi
364 Agroforestry for Increased Production and Livelihood Security
Table 1. Ecosystem services of biodiversity to ameliorate problems in agricultural
Problem Services provided by biodiversity
Wind erosion Suitable vegetation to provide wind control by
landscape texture, manage landscape on soil type
rather than cadastral characteristics
Water erosion Control water runoff through texture of soil cover
and surface, minimal tillage, cultivate on contours
Leaching of nutrients Controlled application of fertilizers, plant
vegetation to capture nutrients, vegetate drainage
lines to strip nutrients
Rising water tables Deep rooted vegetation, increased evapotrans-
Salinisation Control water tables by evapotranspiration of deep
rooted plants, vegetate recharge areas
Weeds, pests and disease Ongoing adaptive response by farmer, through
husbandry, biocides, biological control.
Source: Main (1999)
Fig. 1. The benefits provided by biodiversity (Adopted from Thrupp, 1997).
365Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation
Fig. 2. Socioeconomic root and proximity causes of biodiversity loss (Adopted from
Wood et al. 2000).
Biodiversity is considered as “corner stone stability” and basis of
livelihood and sustainable development. The increasing growth,
population and modernization, agriculture intensification, introduction
of exotic, habitat loss and fragmentation, overexploitation, pollution,
global climate changes, industrial agriculture and forestry have created
crisis of severely depleting biodiversity (Figure 2). In addition, causal
factors like deforestation, jhum cultivation, tea plantation, timber felling,
forest fires, unscientific method of harvesting, hunting, soil erosion,
encroachment and urbanization were reported by Chatterjee et al. (2006).
Guillerme et al. (2011) reported decline in diversity of indigenous
multipurpose trees and shrubs and herbaceous components such as
traditional vegetable crops and ornamental plants owing to the conversion
of agroforestry systems (including home gardens or their parts) to
monospecific production systems and introduction of exotic fast growing
multipurpose trees. It is estimated that 99.9 per cent of the plant and
animal have extinct since life appeared on the earth (Leakey and Lewin
1996). Further, it is believed that about 60,000 of the world 2, 40,000
plants species and higher proportions of vertebrate and insect species
could lose their lease on life over the next three decades. Since, man
cannot stop utilizing biodiversity, therefore, a system is required to harness
the biodiversity on sustainable basis. There is also a great deal of interest
in providing financial benefits to landowners and farmers for land-use
practices that maintain environmental services of value to the wider society
(FAO State of Food and Agriculture Report 2007).
root causes
Habitat loss
and alteration
inequlity Markets
Social change and
366 Agroforestry for Increased Production and Livelihood Security
The agroecosystem biodiversity can be affected due to abandoning
traditional, locally adapted crop varieties and intercropping for high-
yielding monocultures (Chappell and LaValle 2011; Sunderland 2011).
Generally, agroforestry systems are closer to the natural forest systems
(Schroth and McNeely 2011). Agroforestry helps in conservation of
ecosystem through improving soil and microclimate properties, reduced
erosion, improved water quality and carbon sequesteration (Schroth and
Sinclair 2003; Schroth et al. 2004; Nair et al. 2009; Sarvade 2014)..
Farmers practice agroforestry for gaining livelihood, income
generation, risk management, food security and optimal use of available
land, labour and capital (Arnold and Dewees, 1997). It is estimated that
about 1.2 billion people (20%) of the world population depends directly
on agroforestry products and services in developing countries which
can provide goods and services, that can offset 5-20 per cent of
deforestation (Leakey and Sanchez 1997; Dixon 1995).
Agroforestry represents the pinnacle of sustainable development and
plethora of its uses has made it closer to the people. Many effective
conservation organizations are now including agroforestry as a
component in their programmes. In general, agroforestry plays five major
roles in conserving biodiversity: (1) provides habitat for species that can
tolerate a certain level of disturbance; (2) helps preserve germplasm of
sensitive species; (3) helps reduce the rates of conversion of natural habitat
by providing a more productive, sustainable alternative to traditional
agricultural systems that may involve clearing natural habitats; (4)
provides connectivity by creating corridors between habitat remnants
which may support the integrity of these remnants and the conservation
of area-sensitive floral and faunal species; and (5) helps conserve biological
diversity by providing other ecosystem services such as erosion control
and water recharge, thereby preventing the degradation and loss of
surrounding habitat (Jose 2009).
Agroforestry systems are considered as diversity enhancing land
use system especially in the context of inter-species diversity as it brings
together crops, shrubs, trees and in some cases livestock on the same
piece of land (Atta-Krah et al. 2004). A well designed agroforest, can
spontaneously attract and support higher biodiversity. In the lowlands
of Sumatra, resin-producing agroforests planted several generations ago
are now some of the last reservoirs of biodiversity as they are harboring
rare epiphytes and herbs as well as 46 species of mammals, 92 species of
367Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation
birds, and much of the native soil fauna. Agroforestry plantings provide
expanded habitat for a wide range of species, from soil micro life to
insects to mammals and have diversified and intensified agro-ecosystems
to maintain and enhance biodiversity (Sanchez and Leakey 1997; Sanchez
et al. 1997). Agroforestry systems have potential to support as high as
50-80 per cent of biodiversity of comparable natural system (Noble and
Dirzo 1997). Agroforestry conserve biodiversity within deforested,
fragmented landscapes by providing habitats and resources for plant
and animal species. It makes the landscape less harsh for forest dwelling
species by reducing the frequency and intensity of fires and providing
buffer zones to the protected areas (Pandey 2002). Harvey and Gonzalez
Villalobos (2007) characterized bat and bird assemblages occurring in
forests in two types of agroforestry systems (cacao and banana) and
plantain monocultures in the indigenous reserves of Talamanca, Costa
Rica. Agroforestry systems had bat assemblages that were as (or more)
species-rich, abundant, and diverse as forests, contained the same basic
suite of dominant species, but also contained more nectarivorous bats
than forests. Agroforestry systems also harbored bird assemblages that
were as abundant, species-rich, and diverse as forests. Kumar and Nair
(2004) reported species richness of tropical home gardens varying from
27 (Sri Lanka) to 602 (West Java). In an extensive survey of floristic and
structural diversity of 402 home gardens from six regions across south-
western Bangladesh, Kabir and Webb (2009) reported 419 species (59%
native), including six species of conservation concern. Das and Das, 2005
have reported 122 species in home gardens of Barak valley of Assam,
India. Similarly, 68 species were found in home gardens of Karnataka
(Shastri et al. 2002) and 127 species in Kerala (Kumar et al. 1994). 74
species of different plants had been reported in the home gardens of
North Bengal in addition to poultry, various milch and meat animals
which are linked socially and economically to the owner (Panwar and
Chakravarty 2010).
In addition to biodiversity conservation, agroforestry provide food
security and enhances farm income through enhancement in the yield of
products and services from biodiversity rich agro-ecosystems. In
Indonesia 4 million of agroforests not only yield rubber of US $ 1.9 billion
but also contain 250-300 spp. of plant (Leakey 1998; Mc Neely and Scherr,
2001). In San Jose - the Milpa, three types of traditional agroforestry
systems viz., slash-and-burn agriculture, cacao cultivation under shade
trees and home gardens were found to meet the entire family
requirements of food and wood and generated 62 per cent of family
income in Maya community of Belize (Levasseurand Olivier, 2000). Deb
et al. (2014) recorded 44 woody and 49 herbaceous species in the
368 Agroforestry for Increased Production and Livelihood Security
traditional agroforestry system of Tripura, North East India and these
documented plants meets community day to day needs of food, timber
as well as ethno-medicinal purposes.
In addition to plant diversity, agroforestry systems also play an
important role in increasing microbial, avian and faunal diversities. The
greater diversity of birds and insect in agroforestry systems provide the
beneficial service of pest reduction to adjacent crops (Gillespie et al. 1995;
Schultz et al. 2000). Trees grown with crops improve the insect pest
management options by providing habitat that can foster populations of
natural enemies. CAST (1999) estimated natural enemy populations that
live in natural and semi natural areas adjacent to farmlands can control
more than 90 per cent of potential crop insect pests. Bugg et al. (1991)
observed that cover crops (e.g. annual legumes and grasses) sustained
lady beetles (Coleoptera: Coc-cinellidae) and other arthropods that are
useful in the biological control of pests in pecan. Price and Gordon (1999)
reported that earthworm densities were greatest next to poplar and white
ash tree-rows, due to greater litter contributions. Although the population
decreased during the summer period, but was still significantly greater
than those from a comparable conventionally maize cropped field.
In another study, population of arthropods such as opiliones,
dermaptera and carabidae, were found to be significantly higher in the
inter-cropped systems as compared to the monoculture systems. Further,
significantly higher numbers of parasitoids and detritivores were also
recorded in the inter-cropped system compared to the monoculture
system (Middleton 2001). While working with black walnut based alley
cropping system in Missouri in United States, Stamps et al. (2002) reported
that alleycropped forages (Medicago sativa and Bromis inermis) supported
a more diverse and even arthropod fauna than adjacent mono-cropped
forages. In another alley cropping trial with peas (Pisum sativum) and
four tree species (Juglans, Platanus, Fraxinus and Prunus), Peng et al. (1993)
found an increase in insect diversity and improved natural enemy
abundance compared to monocultured peas. Brandle et al. (2004) reported
greater density and diversity of insect populations in windbreaks. They
attributed this to the heterogeneity of the edges that provided varied
micro-habitats for life-cycle activities and a variety of hosts, prey, pollen,
and nectar sources.
Trees in agroforestry systems support threatened cavity nesting
birds, and offer forage and habitat to many species of birds (Pandey
1991; Pandey and Mohan 1993). The number of bird species like Streptopelia
chinensis, Psittacula krameri, Eudynamys scolopaceus, Micropternus brachyurus,
Dinopium benghalense, Oriolus xanthornus, Dicrurus macrocercus, Acridotheres
369Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation
tristis, Corvus splendens, Turdus cafer, Orthotomus sutorius, Copsychus saularis,
Nectarinia zeylonica, Anthus campestris, Passer domesticus, and Ploceus
philippinus attracted to collect their food from fruit tress like Aegle
marmelos, Annona squamosa, Areca catechu, Averrhoa carambola, Carica papaya,
Carissa carandas, Cocos nucifera, Dillenia indica, Elaeocarpus floribundus,
Mangifera indica, Phyllanthus acidus, Phyllanthus emblica, Psidium guajava,
Spondias pinnata, Syzygium cumini, Tamarindus indica and Zizyphus
mauritiana from homestead gardens(Roy et al. 2013). A survey of avifauna
by Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center showed about 180 species of birds
in Mexican coffee agroforests which are up to ten times more than the
bird diversity found in monoculture coffee plantations studied elsewhere.
Williams et al. (1995) investigated the extent to which birds ‘used’ or
visited an intercropped maize field, a conventional maize field and an
old-field site and found that only one species of bird nested in the maize
field, but 10 species foraged in the inter-cropped plots compared to four
species in the maize field and six in the old-field site. In Sweden,
Soderstrom et al. (2001) reported that increasing proportion of pasture
area covered by shrubs and trees had a positive effect on the species
richness of birds. This was partially attributed to an increase in the
abundance and diversity of insects and other invertebrates. Jose (2009)
compared the distribution of meso and macro-faunal communities in soil
and litter under cacao agroforestry systems and in a natural forest in the
southern Bahia state of Brazil. Higher plant diversity in agroforestry
and forest systems provided diverse micro-habitats and heterogeneous
litter, contributing to greater biological diversity in the soil. Riparian
Buffers improve bird species diversity and help reduce crop damage
and improve crop quality (Udawatta and Godsey 2010). They noticed
that riparian buffers had higher bird abundance, richness, and diversity
than did crop and pasture sites in Iowa. They attributed these positive
changes to greater vertical, horizontal, and compositional diversity in
the vegetative structure of riparian buffers than in the other areas studied.
Authors concluded that re-established riparian buffers provide habitat
to a broad suite of bird species, similar to natural grasslands and forest
The people associated to natural ecosystems play very important
role in biodiversity conservation as they are familiar to the ecosystem
and acquiring empirical knowledge based on their experience while living
vicinity to natural resources (Ramakrishnan 1998; Deb et al. 2012). Kalaba
et al. (2010) explained a huge potential of traditional agroforestry practices
in biodiversity conservation. Traditional cropping patterns of any area
370 Agroforestry for Increased Production and Livelihood Security
may differ with plants response to fundamental soil and climatic
conditions as well as social and ethological preferences (Ruthenberg 1976).
The valuable traditional grain crops, rhizomatous crops, pineapple, coffee,
tea and vegetables components for the community’s everyday life, and
provide a greater diversity of nutrition grown with a number of fruits
and other trees in the traditional agroforestry systems (Deb et al. 2014).
Traditional agroforestry systems like home gardens, cocoa and
coffee based agroforestry systems, shifting cultivation mimic natural
ecosystems and provide a variety of niches and resources that support a
high diversity of plants and animals (Perfecto and Snelling 1995). The
home gardens, ecologically sustainable and diversifies livelihood of local
community; are considered as excellent tools for biodiversity conservation
(Linger 2014).
In Latin America, for instance, numerous studies have shown that
the traditional coffee agroforests (coffee integrated with 2-5 other tree
species) are second only to undisturbed tropical forests in their diversity
of birds, insect life, bats, and even mammals. Similarly, the findings in
the damar agroforests of Sumatra show that these complex multi-strata
agroforests contain over 50 per cent of all the regional pool of resident
tropical forest birds, most of the mammals and about 70 per cent of the
plants (Table 2). These traditional agroforestry systems are therefore
potentially sustainable resources and a valuable compromise between
biodiversity conservation and profitable use of natural resources (Leakey
Table 2. Earthworm diversity in different agroforestry systems
Tree species Poplar Maple Ash
Within 0.98 2.22 2.39
2 m 1.51 1.71 2.20
6 m 1.06 1.27 2.26
Within 2.07 2.58 2.68
2 m 2.07 2.21 2.46
6 m 1.99 1.37 2.13
Contrary to it, modern agroforestry systems (alley cropping,
woodlots, improved fallows, fodder banks, windbreaks and shelterbelts)
tended to be the set of standalone technologies that together form various
land use systems in which trees are sequentially or simultaneously
371Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation
integrated with crops and/or livestock (Nair 1993). These systems aim
at planting the trees in regular pattern and therefore mimic the temperate
models where monoculture is more prevalent (Cooper et al. 1996). These
systems maximize ecosystem processes and structural complexity, rather
than increasing number of species (Leaky 1998). These systems however,
can be useful in maintaining biotic connectivity and can improve soil
faunal and avian diversity to some extent. Tables 3 and 4 provide
biodiversity issues in traditional and modern agroforestry systems. New
agroforestry technologies are generally developed using only few selected
tree species- often in mono-tree species systems, usually with preferred
characteristic such as high yielding, fast grown NFT’s and arboreal
structure. Such an approach result is low diversity on farms and make
the system vulnerable to insect/ or diseases. These systems thus need to
be modified so as to increase the diversity. Some of the diversity
increasing measures are given in Table 5.
Table 3. Biodiversity dimensions in traditional agroforestry systems
Agroforestry system Biodiversity issues
Shifting cultivation or Fallows consist of multiple species; and biological
slash- and-burn diversity, in both inter and intra species, is intense.
Long fallow periods of 15 to 20 years preserve wild
species diversity.
Home-gardens and High inter- and intra-species diversity involving a
compound farms number of fruit, fodder and timber trees and shrubs,
food crops, medicinal and other plants of economic
Forest gardens/ High species diversity similar to natural forests but
agroforests dominated by a few carefully managed economically
valuable tree species.
Parkland systems A variety of crops grown in association with naturally
propagated trees ensure wide species diversity
(Teklehaimanot, 2004). Parks range from monospecific
to multispecific with up to 20 tree species.
Trees on farmlands Diversity is more at the landscape level rather than at
(boundary plantings, field level in terms of both inter and intra-species.
scattered trees)
Source: Atta Krah et al. (2004)
372 Agroforestry for Increased Production and Livelihood Security
Table 4. Biodiversity dimensions in research developed agroforestry systems
Agroforestry technology Biodiversity issues
Alley cropping/ hedgerow Diversity limited to intra species. Emphasis on a
intercropping few tree species has raised concerns on pests and
Improved fallows or Mostly based on mono-tree species.
planted fallows.
Fodder banks Sole stands of either leguminous trees or shrubs or
high yielding fodder grasses makes the system less
Rotational woodlots Planted using sole stands of fast growing species
for short-cycle harvest.
Tree based intercropping Less diverse due to planting of single species.
Source: Atta Krah et al. (2004)
Table 5. Diversity enhancing measures in modern agroforestry systems/technologies
Agroforestry systems Ways of enhancing diversity
Alley cropping/ Tree diversity can be increased through.
hedgerow intercropping multispecies hedgerows, and crop diversity increased
by adopting intercropping in the alleys to increase
efficiency of nutrient cycling.
Improved fallows or Multi-species fallows combining coppicing and
planted fallows. non-coppicing species or species differing in leaf litter
characteristics are likely to enhance fallow function
as well as reduce risk from pests.
Fodder banks Combining trees and fodder grasses in different
diversity increasing manner,
Rotational woodlots Mixing of N2-fixing species with non-N2-fixing
species will improve diversity, nutrient cycling and
site enrichment compared with non-N2-fixing species
Tree based intercropping Adopting new agroforestry systems such as Agri-
systems horti-silviculture, Agri-silvi-pastoral, apiculture with
trees, aquaculture with trees etc.
While there is a growing literature on biodiversity within
agroforestry systems; the important questions still remain about the long-
373Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation
term viability of animal and plant population in agroforestry systems.
Most studies so far have monitored or inventoried biodiversity within
landscapes that still retain some forest cover or have focused on few
taxa and have been conducted on small spatial and temporal scales. The
future agroforestry research in biodiversity should include:
!Development of economically and socially acceptable land use
systems that function like undisturbed ecosystem and maintain
!Controlled experiments to determine the relationship between
agriculture intensification and biodiversity.
!Determine the diversity in different agroforestry systems and their
implications for ecological functioning at different scales.
!Improving the diversity of the new agroforestry technologies by
planting the trees in different combinations.
!Develop sustainable, productive, profitable and diversity enhancing
new agroforestry technologies.
Biodiversity is the keystone in sustainability and its loss has been
the common outcomes of the increasing population, agriculture
intensification, habitat loss and fragmentation, introduction of exotic
species, over-exploitation, pollution, global climatic changes, industrial
agriculture and forestry. Despite the limitations in our current knowledge,
there are already sufficient evidences that agroforestry systems offer
more hope for conservation of plant and animal species than the
monoculture crops. The findings have led to exciting new initiatives to
use agroforestry systems as tools for conservation in already deforested
and fragmented landscapes. The issues of biodiversity in agroforestry is
however extremely complex. Traditional agroforestry system offers more
potential toward the biodiversity conservation than modern agroforestry
technologies where diversity component has been de-emphasized. The
new agroforestry technologies which are increasingly finding its way in
the modern era all around the world need a serious thought from
researchers and policy makers to make economical and social acceptable
land use systems that enhance biodiversity too.
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... By 2033, India's demand for food grains is predicted to increase to 333 million tons (GoI 2018). This necessitates a corresponding increase in their production, and the additional production must come from technological advancements in crop breeding for higher yields; resilience against climatic shocks, insect pests, and diseases; and conservation of natural resources, including the land, water and biodiversity (Kaushal et al. 2017). However, it is possible that the new crop varieties don't fully replace the traditional varieties due to differences in their input requirements, adaptation to agro-climatic conditions, and consumer preferences, among other factors. ...
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