Agroforestry: Enhancing resiliency in U.S. agricultural landscapes under changing conditions

Agroforestry, the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal production systems, is being deployed to enhance productivity, profitability, and environmental stewardship of agricultural operations and lands across the United States.

This assessment provides a science-based synthesis on the use of agroforestry for mitigation and adaptation services in the face of climatic variability and change. It provides technical input to land-use sector issues in the National Climate Assessment (NCA) and serves as a framework for including agroforestry systems in agricultural strategies to improve productivity and food security and to build resilience in these landscapes. It also provides follow-up to the technical input report by Walthall et al. (2012) that established the need for innovative strategies to address significant climatic variability challenges faced by U.S. agriculture.

The five widely recognized categories of agroforestry in the United States are (1) silvopasture, (2) alley cropping, (3) forest farming (or multistory cropping), (4) windbreaks, and (5) riparian forest buffers. Such practices can help to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase the resiliency of agricultural lands to address impacts from climatic variability. They can also enhance agricultural production; protect soil, air, and water quality; provide wildlife habitat; and allow for diversified income.

This report provides a science-based assessment of adaptation and mitigation mechanisms that agroforestry can confer, all of which are important for food security. It reviews social, cultural, and economic aspects of agroforestry and the capacity of agroforestry systems to provide multipurpose solutions. In addition, it presents a comprehensive North American perspective on the strengths and limitations of agroforestry through U.S. regional overviews as well as overviews for Canada and Mexico.

A range of national stakeholder perspectives was included, with participation from Federal and State governments, tribal lands, nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, and professional organizations. Their input throughout the process has ensured up-to-date and relevant subject matter information for decisionmakers, practitioners, and researchers.

This report provides an in-depth assessment of agroforestry as one strategy for strengthening the adaptive capacity of U.S. farms and ranches. The introduction provides an overview and addresses how agroforestry can provide adaptive and mitigative solutions for agriculture. The remaining chapters present in greater detail the biophysical dimensions, human dimensions, and regional considerations regarding the utility of agroforestry for addressing changing conditions. The chapters are:

  • Reducing Threats and Enhancing Resiliency
  • Greenhouse Gas Mitigation and Accounting
  • Valuation of Agroforestry Services
  • Human Dimensions of Agroforestry Systems
  • Agroforestry Resources
  • Expanding the North American Perspective - Canada
  • Expanding the North American Perspective - Mexico
  • Challenges and Opportunities

Access the report on the U.S. Forest Service website here. The Executive Summary is available here.