iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Assessing food sustainable intensification potential of agroforestry using a carbon balance method

Josep Crous-Duran (1)   , Anil R Graves (2), Silvestre Garcia-de-Jalón (2-3), Joana A Paulo (1), Margarida Tomé (1), João HN Palma (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 12, Issue 1, Pages 85-91 (2019)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2578-011
Published: Jan 24, 2019 - Copyright © 2019 SISEF

Research Articles

Collection/Special Issue: INCOTW - Sassari, Italy (2017)
International Congress on Cork Oak Trees and Woodlands
Guest Editors: Piermaria Corona, Sandro Dettori

Food security, climate change mitigation, and land use challenges are interlinked and need to be considered simultaneously. One possible solution is sustainable intensification, which is the practice of increasing food production per area of land whilst also reducing the environmental impacts associated with this. Agroforestry has been stated to be a practice that meets this definition. In this study, a new methodology is presented to assess the potential of different management options as sustainable intensification practices. The methodology is based on comparing the carbon emissions associated with the production of food and the carbon sequestered for that same activity for a particular quantity of food produced over a specific area and over a specific time. The resulting indicator, the “carbon balance” is the difference between the greenhouse gasses emitted (considered as negative values) and carbon sequestered (positive values) estimated in Mg CO2eq per Mg of food produced on one hectare of land for one year. The carbon balance quantifies the global warming potential associated with sustainable intensification by integrating a process-based model with life cycle analysis and is able to estimate above- and below-ground biomass and soil carbon content. This methodology is tested in Portugal for wheat production under crop monoculture and agroforestry systems. The results show agroforestry to be a suitable practice for sustainable intensification compared to a crop monoculture as it just slightly decreased wheat yields whilst providing a positive carbon balance from year 50 onwards of approximately 1 Mg of CO2eq sequestered per Mg of wheat produced.


Climate Change Mitigation, Food Security, Land-use Occupation, Regulating Ecosystem Services, Soil Fertility, Life Cycle Analysis, Yield-SAFE, Clipick, Carbon Sequestration

Authors’ address

Josep Crous-Duran
Joana A Paulo
Margarida Tomé
João HN Palma
Forest Research Centre, School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Tapada da Ajuda s/n, 1349-017 Lisbon (Portugal)
Anil R Graves
Silvestre Garcia-de-Jalón
Cranfield University, Cranfield, Bedfordshire, MK43 0AL (UK)
Silvestre Garcia-de-Jalón
Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), 48940, Leioa, Basque Country (Spain)

Corresponding author

Josep Crous-Duran


Crous-Duran J, Graves AR, Garcia-de-Jalón S, Paulo JA, Tomé M, Palma JHN (2019). Assessing food sustainable intensification potential of agroforestry using a carbon balance method. iForest 12: 85-91. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2578-011

Academic Editor

Piermaria Corona

Paper history

Received: Aug 01, 2017
Accepted: Nov 10, 2018

First online: Jan 24, 2019
Publication Date: Feb 28, 2019
Publication Time: 2.50 months

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