Agroforests are reducing carbon losses from Jambi, Indonesia

Land-cover change is accelerating, while carbon loss is decelerating in Jambi Province, Sumatra. This is according to a paper published in Regional Environmental Change by Grace Villamor, Robert Ponstius and Meine van Noordwijk, which also states that this deceleration in carbon loss is due to a transition from forest to Agroforest. This research underpins the increasingly important role of agroforests in carbon emission reductions and opines that REDD policies and schemes would achieve better results if they factored that role in.

Sherezade-compressedIndonesia is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, with 80 % of emissions originating from deforestation and peat swamp degradation.  The country has the second highest rate of deforestation among tropical countries and 12 million hectares of forest were lost in Sumatra from 1985 to 2007.

The Government of Indonesia has declared its commitment to reducing its baseline emissions by 26 % by 2010—unilaterally— and beyond that by another 15 % with international support. Indonesia is developing a REDD+ policy, but defining a ‘forest’ has proved tricky. Currently, ‘forests’ include tree plantations, which means carbon finance could end up subsidizing the transition from forests and woodlands to industrial timber and oil palm plantations—with negative impacts. Jambi Province ranks 5th among the 30 provinces in Indonesia in terms of carbon dioxide emissions during 1990–2005. Jambi is responsible for 5 % of Indonesia’s annual emissions, 4 % being emissions caused by the transition from agroforests to cropland, while 15 % were due to transition from undisturbed forest to cropland.

An analysis of land-use change and associated carbonstock change can provide invaluable decision support for ongoing REDD+ policy discussions. This study compared rates of land-cover change in two periods: 1993–2005 and 1973–1993, and came to the conclusion that REDD+ Policy should include agroforestry systems and community-based forests. The role of forests, trees and agroforestry in climate change mitigation is a key focus of the CGIAR’s Research Programme on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. The study area covered approximately 16 thousand ha in Bungo district, Jambi province, Sumatra, Indonesia, and included the villages of Laman Panjan, Lubuk Beringin, and Buat. Maps of the area for 1973, 1993 and 2005 were obtained from Landsat MSS, Landsat TM and Landsat ETM images, and help categorise land into: Forest, Agroforest, Rubber, Palm and Others.

It was found that land-cover changed at a faster rate during 1993–2005 than during 1973–1993. Historical evidence explains this: there were increasing resource pressures, changing market opportunities, and intervening outside policies during 1993–2005. The largest transition during 1993–2005 is from Agroforest to Rubber, important because the carbon density of Agroforest is greater than that of Rubber. Forest accounted for nearly all land transitions during the earlier time interval, and Forest has more than twice the carbon density of any other category. In the latter time interval, Agroforest accounts for a larger area of land-cover change than Forest, explaining why the annual aboveground carbon loss is decelerating.  A strong case for why REDD policies should account for the role of Agroforest in carbon budgets.

REDD policies can have a profound influence on conservation, sustainable management, and enhancement of carbon stocks in developing countries. However, if they only take the ‘Forest’ category into account, carbon changes due to ‘Agroforest’ transitions will be omitted. The province of Jambi is aiming to pioneer the REDD scheme, and is under obligation to ensure that all the drivers, dynamics and processes of land changes are factored in. That includes deforestation beyond the forest sector. If non-forest sectors are not accounted for, the REDD scheme will likely fail.

Read the full paper.

Villamor GB, Pontius Jr. RG, van Noordwijk M. 2013. Agroforest’s growing role in reducing carbon losses from Jambi (Sumatra), Indonesia Regional Environmental Change (Online first), 12p'

Rebecca Selvarajah

Rebecca is a science writer, manager of publishing projects, trainer in science writing, and novelist — working partly from Nairobi, Kenya and partly from Morwell, Australia. With over 15 years of experience in writing, advertising/marketing, publishing and social media, she takes on varied assignments, travelling, if needed, to conduct relevant research and interviews. Originally from Sri Lanka, Rebecca holds a BA honours in Psychology, with minors in Gender Studies and Sociology. Email Rebecca on

You may also like...