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The Role of Small Woody Landscape Features and Agroforestry Systems for National Carbon Budgeting in Germany



The intensification of food production systems has resulted in landscape simplification, with trees and hedges disappearing from agricultural land, principally in industrialized countries. However, more recently, the potential of agroforestry systems and small woody landscape features (SWFs), e.g., hedgerows, woodlots, and scattered groups of trees, to sequester carbon was highlighted as one of the strategies to combat global climate change. Our study was aimed to assess the extent of SWFs embedded within agricultural landscapes in Germany, estimate their carbon stocks, and investigate the potential for increasing agroforestry cover to offset agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We analyzed open-source geospatial datasets and identified over 900,000 hectares of SWFs on agricultural land, equivalent to 4.6% of the total farmland. The carbon storage of SWFs was estimated at 111 ± 52 SD teragrams of carbon (Tg C), which was previously unaccounted for in GHG inventories and could play a role in mitigating the emissions. Furthermore, we found cropland to have the lowest SWF density and thus the highest potential to benefit from the implementation of agroforestry, which could sequester between 0.2 and 2 Tg of carbon per year. Our study highlights that country-specific data are urgently needed to refine C stock estimates, improve GHG inventories and inform the large-scale implementation of agroforestry in Germany.

Author(s): Golicz, K.; Ghazaryan, G.; Niether, W.; Wartenberg, A.C.; Breuer, L.; Gattinger, A.; Jacobs, S.R.; Kleinebecker, T.; Weckenbrock, P.; Große-Stoltenberg, A.

Journal: Land

Year: 2021