What is Agroforestry definition Photo by Blue Ox Studio from Pexels

What is Agroforestry? A Nature-based Solution for Climate Change

2.5-minute read

"Aggressive" and "forestry" are what came to my mind when I first heard the word "agroforestry"— but no, we are not talking about pushy forests here.

One definition of agroforestry is: growing trees and shrubs intermixed with crops or pastureland.

—Think "food forests." 

What's so beneficial about including trees in agriculture? 


  • Trees provide ecosystem services that support the stability and welfare of the natural environment. 

  • Trees provide raw materials for our economies. 

  • Trees can provide nutritious food and/or support the production of such food.

Agroforestry can provide significant benefits to local, regional, and global climates in these ways:

Carbon sequestration (storing carbon) 

  • vegetative growth 

  • vegetative cooperative support 

  • wildlife habitat 

  • topsoil generation 

Stabilization of carbon reserves (prevent desertification) 

  • soil erosion control 

  • flood control 

Regulating hydrological cycles (they help create rain and replenish groundwater tables and aquifers) 

Temperature regulation (slowing down rapid temperature change)

Agroforestry can reduce the impact of environmental disasters of: 



  • Temperature regulation through topsoil generation, evapotranspiration, and reducing surface-level UV geothermal gain with canopy cover.


  • Carbon sequestration: unmolested burned trees and shrubs provide nutrient boosts to new growth for greater successive ecosystem vitality. Successive ecosystems have the opportunity to become more robust and resilient to future wildfires. 

Floods & Hurricanes 

  • Stormwater surface flow retention (water absorption) 

  • Riverine and coastal barricade (obstructing surface flow) 

  • Topsoil and vegetation stabilization (holding soil and plants together with root mass) 


  • Soil erosion control (root mass) 

  • Surface flow velocity reduction and barricade (reduces speed and obstructs the flow of debris) 


  • Topsoil and vegetation stabilization (holding soil and plants together with root mass) 


  • Temperature regulation is accomplished through topsoil generation which increases the soil's water retention. Evapotranspiration through tree leaves creates a cooling effect. Tree canopies reducing surface-level UV geothermal gain, which reduces evaporation loss from soils.

  • Stormwater surface flow retention (water absorption)

Unfortunately, there is a wrong way to do agroforestry. 

The biggest mistake is using the wrong (bio-regionally inappropriate) trees, shrubs, and plant species.

Problems created by using the wrong trees include: 

  • invasive species resulting in native flora and fauna habitat destruction 

  • regionally incompatible water and nutrient requirements resulting in droughts and carbon-emissions-intensive agricultural inputs (synthetic, petrochemcial fertilizers and biocides—poisons(herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, etc.))

These problems trigger secondary, tertiary, and many more "-ary" problems. 

For example:

In California, Eucalyptus was introduced for its fast-growing qualities, intended to be used for construction lumber. Eucalyptus, a California non-native, has taken over many of California's waterways due to its fast vegetative growth and overly successful reproductive cycle. Its leaves carry allelopathic oils that prevent other plants from growing near it, effectively destroying native ecosystem habitats. Eucalyptus is also a high-velocity evapotranspirator— it sucks loads of water out of the ground, rapidly pushing it up into the air, dehydrating California's ecosystems

Another mistake: 

Growing oranges and avocados (subtropical/tropical climate species) in California (a Mediterranean climate). Substantial volumes of water, which California's climate region is not naturally equipped to provide, are extracted from farreaching distances to irrigate these tree species. Water "thieving" to irrigate subtropical/tropical species being grown in a semi-arid/Mediterranean climate is madness. California's droughts are intensifying, and ecosystems are being sucked dry to sustain these agricultural misfortunes (yes, like Mono Lake (puddle). We see you).

A visual contrast between regenerative agriculture (agroforestry) and conventional agriculture:

agroforestry permaculture agriculture

The simple and best way to engage with agroforestry is:

  •  prioritize native species: use bio-regionally appropriate plants

  • do not use biocides/poisons: encourage insect, animal, and birdlife interactions 

  • encourage diversity higher variance in plant and wildlife creates more fertility and robust agricultural ecosystems 

Agroforestry is not a silver bullet to the climate crisis.  It is an agricultural improvement mimicking nature and supporting carbon sequestration in a way that is more beneficial to ecosystems and climate. 

We must explore and develop as many nature-based solutions as we can.

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