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Individual Highlight

A Win-Win on Agricultural Lands: Creating Wildlife Habitat Through Agroforestry

Photo of Blue blooms of native California lilac, and other native shrubs form part of a one-mile hedgerow in Yolo County, California. Hedgerows, an agroforestry practice, increase pollination activity from native bees and provide crop protection by harboring beneficial native insects over crop pests by a margin of three to one. Jessa Cruz, Xerces SocietyBlue blooms of native California lilac, and other native shrubs form part of a one-mile hedgerow in Yolo County, California. Hedgerows, an agroforestry practice, increase pollination activity from native bees and provide crop protection by harboring beneficial native insects over crop pests by a margin of three to one. Jessa Cruz, Xerces SocietySnapshot : Over 50 percent of land use in the U.S. is dedicated to agricultural production. Farms and ranches are therefore a critical piece in the conservation puzzle, as actions taken on these working landscapes have an impact on wildlife and the health of ecosystems. Agroforestry is one option to create benefits for landowners and wildlife.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Bentrup, Gary 
Research Location : National
Research Station : Washington Office (WO)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 746

Summary

Agroforestry, the intentional combination of agriculture and forestry, can be designed and managed as multifunctional systems that support food and fiber production while reducing negative environmental impacts and providing clean water, wildlife habitat, and other public services. The USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) is assessing and documenting how agroforestry practices can provide benefits to wildlife. Some of these methods include: (1) Protect Aquatic Habitats. Agroforestry practices provide living cover, which intercepts sediment, nutrients, and other materials in surface runoff and in shallow subsurface water flow, preventing them from getting into streams, lakes, or wetlands. Riparian forest buffers can also reduce bank erosion and in stream sedimentation, and help maintain water temperatures for cold water fisheries. In the Tucannon River in Washington, for example, spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) runs hit a low of 54 fish in 1995 and juvenile salmonids were absent in lower reaches of the river. Since 1999, more than 1,100 acres of riparian forest buffers and other restoration measures have been implemented, reducing summer water temperatures by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Young salmon are now using areas of the river that were previously too warm for them, and returning Chinook adults have increased in number to 1,239 in the year 2012. (2) Restore Connectivity. Agroforestry can decrease the impacts of habitat fragmentation by reducing habitat isolation if plantings are well planned and connected with other habitats. For example, in the Tensas River Basin in northern Louisiana, a study documented corridor use by the threatened Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus). In an area dominated by extensive crop fields, bears used riparian forest buffers, ranging in width from 15 to 250 feet, to travel between hardwood patches. (3) Provide Pollinator Habitat. Hedgerows and other agroforestry practices can provide floral resources, nesting sites, and pesticide-free haven for pollinators, including native bees. For instance, native bee richness is at least 50 percent greater in the hedgerows compared to control sites. For all the benefits agroforestry practices can have, they may also prove detrimental to certain wildlife populations if they are located, designed, and managed inappropriately. NAC is synthesizing the research and preparing planning and design tools to ensure agroforestry achieves desired wildlife goals and minimizes potential negative impacts.

Additional Resources

A Win-Win on Agricultural Lands(external web site)

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • University of Missouri