Biodiversity benefits of agroforestry systems

This page describes what biodiversity is in the context of agroforestry, benefits to farmers of increased biodiversity and how we are working to enhance biodiversity through our solutions. Increased biodiversity is one of the things that can make farming systems more regenerative. Read more here about what regeneration and why it is more than just a specific type of practices.

Biodiversity

To understand the benefits of biodiversity in an agroforestry system, it is important to understand what biodiversity is.

Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter.

WWF

So biodiversity is the variety of species in a specific geographical area, often referred to as an ecoregion.

Diversity and variety

It is important to not only assess the diversity of an individual production system but also to see the system in a wider ecoregional context. Though a specific production system might have a high individual diversity, this does not necessarily result in an overall global improvement in diversity if that one system is just copied around the world. The key to increasing global biodiversity is to have a high level of ecoregional diversity in the system, that is, different species from the particular region the system is implemented in. Ecologists have long been working with species conservation and determining which species belong where. More on this in the next section.

Species and ecoregional areas

Species – Native and exotic

Within ecology, species are considered in different categories according to their natural regional distribution. Before humans started introducing species from one region to another, species had a natural habitat. This is what is referred to as native species. Native species are species that are naturally occurring in a specific bioregion. If species are introduced to a region they do not naturally inhabit they are considered exotic.

Species – Threat

In addition to their relationship with a specific region, species are considered according to how threatened their existence is. Some species are not threatened while others are near extinction. Overall species that are highly endangered AND endemic to a specific region are of the highest importance since the conservation of these will have the highest impact on global biodiversity pool.

Biodiversity in an agroforestry context

When it comes to agroforestry systems and biodiversity it’s really about finding the right balance. Exotic species are fine because they might improve system productivity and thereby support the livelihood of the farmers. This ensures the long-term consolidation of the system. Still, at Regen Farmer we strive to integrate as many native and endemic species into the system and at the same time maintain productivity. Additionally, it is important to avoid invasive exotics species in the system.

Benefits of increased biodiversity in farming systems

The benefits of increased biodiversity in the farming system are many. Below we mainly explore the benefits for farmers and land managers.

Improved pest management through increased diversity of predator insects and vertebrates

The implementation of trees in arable systems can reduce the pest pressure on the arable crops. With the implementation of agroforestry systems, farmers can on average reduce the pest pressure by 25%.

Diverse species composition increases resource efficiency and productivity

In agroforestry systems that are more diverse and have a complementary species composition, the overall productivity is higher because resources are utilized more efficiently.

More resilient production system

Production systems with a greater variety of species are more resilient. Recently, several major crop categories have been subject to threat from pests and they have only been saved by cross-breeding with natural varieties. If one crop is subjected to a bad harvest, the system itself is more robust also from a financial perspective.

Integrating biodiversity into our solutions

At Regen Farmer we seek to increase biodiversity in our solutions in several ways. From species conservation to habitat creation the solutions can benefit both farmers, nature and society as a whole.

  1. Creating agroforestry systems with beneficial variety through data-driven solution
  2. Ensuring species conservation through ecoregional database and partnerships
  3. Implementing multifunctional integrated farm landscapes

Creating biodiverse agroforestry systems through data-driven systems design

Per definition, agroforestry is a cross-sectorial and multifunctional farming system. Agroforestry combines trees with different plants and animals to create polyculture systems. So by implementing agroforestry systems, there is already a big difference in biodiversity compared to a traditional monoculture system.

Through our agroforestry suitability assessment, we help you find the right type of agroforestry system for your land. This involves complementary species that are adapted to the specific context. At the same time, we help to ensure high yield through, whether this involves native or exotic species and varieties, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the system.

This is only made possible by our unique data-driven system assessment solution that makes it possible to analyse thousands of different system combinations and find the ones that are beneficial for both the farming enterprise and nature.

Agroforestry system with high diversity, resilience and productivity.

Ecoregional agroforestry and species database

There are over 800 different terrestrial ecoregions on earth. Many of these ecoregions have endemic species. This means that they have species that are unique to that region – species that exist nowhere else on earth. This is key to understanding what biodiversity is. It’s not only about diversity on a local level, but about diversity on a global scale. When it comes to agriculture, there is a tendency to copy systems from one part of the world to another, using mostly the same species. The problem with this is two fold: a. the systems that are copied around the world generally have a low diversity and b. by using the same plants, diversity on a global scale is reduced. So to conserve species one must a. work with systems of high diversity (such as regenerative agroforestry) and b. promote the use of local species instead of bringing in exotic species, by adopting an ecoregional approach.

We need to regenerate biodiversity on an ecoregional scale. At Regen Farmer we are building a network of best practice ecoregional agroforestry farms and communities. These ecoregional partnerships make it possible for us to gather information about unique agroforestry systems and native/endemic species in each region. This enables us to work actively with farmers, communities and organisations around the world to unleash the potential of regenerative ecoregional agroforestry and promote the use of it.

Example of bamboo native and endemic to Chile being implemented in a regenerative ecoregional agroforestry system.

Integrated farm landscape planning

Mosaic landscapes create what is known as biotope networks. It is literally corridors that connect the dots (of habitats). At Regen Farmer we design farms and landscapes that connect animal habitats. In a country like Denmark, where only 8% of the land is wild nature, the connection of these habitats can be a key element in species survival and conservation efforts.

These can be integrated shelter or riparian buffers, so that the corridors not only improve biodiversity and create habitats, but also provide direct value for the farmer.

Regenerative agroforestry landscape with integrated wildlife corridors and mosaic habitat integration.