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Trees on Agricultural Lands on the Rise, Could Help Mitigate Climate Change in Developing Countries

Aug 03, 2016 09:31 PM EDT
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A new study revealed that the tree covers of agricultural land in the world are increasing, helping mitigate climate change impacts.
(Photo : Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

A new study revealed that tree cover on agricultural around the world has increased, potentially helping in the mitigation of climate change by capturing nearly 0.75 Gigatonnes carbon dioxide every year.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that 43 percent of the agricultural land in the world had at least 10 percent tree cover, two percent higher compared to the preceding decade.

"Study results show that existing tree cover makes a major contribution to carbon pools on agricultural land, demonstrating the potential to add to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts," said Jianchu Xu of the World Agroforestry Centre, in a statement. "If tree cover is accounted for, the total carbon stock is over four times higher than when estimated using IPCC tier 1 estimates alone."

Using remote sensing data, the researchers noted that the distribution of tree cover on agricultural land differs across different regions of the world, depending on their climatic conditions.

Humid areas like South East Asia, Central America, eastern South America and central and coastal West Africa have high tree cover, while east China, northwest India, west Asia, the southern border of the Sahara Desert, the prairies of North America and southwest Australia have low tree cover. On the other hand, south Asia, sub-humid Africa, central and western Europe, the Amazonia and mid-west North America have moderate tree cover in their agricultural lands.

According to the study, agriculture and land-use change accounts for 24 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emission. As the world population continues to grow, the need for agricultural land will also increase causing people to sacrifice large forest areas to make way for food production.

Previous study pointed out that the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emission from crop and livestock production is limited. This is the reason why agricultural practices such as trees in agricultural land, or agroforestry system, are preferably better in mitigating climate change while improving livelihoods and income.

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