Silvopasture is an ancient practice that integrates trees and pasture into a single system for raising livestock. Research suggests silvopasture far outpaces any grassland technique for counteracting the methane emissions of livestock and sequestering carbon under-hoof. Pastures strewn or crisscrossed with trees sequester five to ten times as much carbon as those of the same size that are treeless, storing it in both biomass and soil.
Carbon aside, the advantages of silvopasture are considerable, with financial benefits for farmers and ranchers. Livestock, trees, and any additional forestry products, such as nuts, fruit, and mushrooms, generate income on different time horizons. The health and productivity of both animals and the land improve. Because silvopasture systems are diversely productive and more resilient, farmers are better insulated from risk.
Silvopasture often runs counter to farming norms and can be costly and slow to implement. Peer-to-peer education has proven effective for spreading it. As the impacts of global warming progress, appeal will likely grow, because silvopasture can help farmers and their livestock adapt to erratic weather and increased drought. That is the climatic win-win of this solution: Silvopasture averts and sequesters emissions, while protecting against changes that are now inevitable.
[used] on 1.1 billion acres worldwide: Nair, P. K. R. “Climate Change Mitigation: A Low-Hanging Fruit of Agroforestry.” In Agroforestry—The Future of Global Land Use, edited by P. K. Ramachandran Nair and Dennis Garrity, 31–67. Springer Netherlands, 2012.
dehesa system…Iberian Peninsula: Toensmeier, Eric. The Carbon Farming Solution. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016.
Central America…work of champions: Palmer, Lisa. “In the Pastures of Colombia, Cows, Crops and Timber Coexist.” Yale Environment 360. March 13, 2014.
ruminants [use of] arable land: Herrero, Mario, Petr Havlík, Hugo Valin, An Notenbaert, Mariana C. Rufino, Philip K. Thornton, Michael Blümmel, Franz Weiss, Delia Grace, and Michael Obersteiner. “Biomass Use, Production, Feed Efficiencies, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Livestock Systems.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 52 (2013): 20888-20893; Gaughan, John, Lance Baumgard, and Cadaba Prasad. Climate Change Impact on Livestock: Adaptation and Mitigation. Springer, 2015.
sequester five to ten times as much carbon: Toensmeier, Solution.
silvopastoral forage [and] methane: Toensmeier, Solution; Palmer, “Colombia.”
Yield results [vs.] grass-only pasture: Toensmeier, Solution.
Colombia…investment of $400-800 per acre: Palmer, “Colombia.”
Correction: It is one approach within the broader umbrella of agroforestry and revives an ancient practice, now common on over 350 million acres worldwide.