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The potential for agroforestry to reduce net GHG emissions in Scotland through the Woodland Carbon Code

Home research The potential for agroforestry to reduce net GHG emissions in Scotland through the Woodland Carbon Code
Agroforestry Suffolk hazel
Agroforestry, Suffolk, hazel

This research explored the potential of agroforestry to contribute to meeting greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets outlined in Scotland’s Climate Change Plan.

Agroforestry is the combination of trees and agriculture on the same plot of land, with tree density varying depending on agricultural land type, tree species, and objective. The study also examined the economic viability of adopting agroforestry.

Research objectives

Silvo-arable agroforestry, trees and livestock
Silvo-arable agroforestry, trees and livestock
  • This project reviews existing literature and evidence to assess two important topics in agroforestry:
  • the GHG removal potential of different forms of agroforestry suitable in Scotland, adding further evidence to that presented in the 2018 CXC agroforestry report;
  • the economic viability of adopting such agroforestry practices.

Findings and Recommendations

Key findings are: (1) While all forms of agroforestry have the potential to sequester carbon, the benefits will vary depending on soil type, species, planting density, and location. The fastest rate of carbon sequestration is most likely to be achieved on highly productive lowland sites. (2) All forms of agroforestry suitable in Scotland are generally financially viable (i.e. generate positive income for farmers), though benefits depend on time period and whether farmers can ‘cash-in’ on wider ecosystem service benefits from agroforestry in the form of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) and/or public grants.

  • Overall, for Scotland our findings suggest that silvo-pastoral ‘wood pasture’ agroforestry systems have good combined GHG mitigation and financial benefits, though the relatively low density of planting means carbon gains will be constrained.
  • Silvo-pastoral shelterbelts, and buffer strips are likely to improve carbon mitigation gains, and silvo-pastoral hedgerows were also identified to have potentially strong GHG mitigation benefits, although no evidence on their financial viability was found in the evidence reviewed.
  • For the cases identified that include a comparison of economic viability, all found that agroforestry is less financially viable than conventional agriculture unless relevant PES are accounted for in the calculation.
  • There is therefore a strong case for funding support for agroforestry through PES schemes, including the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC). This would support increased adoption of agroforestry by improving its financial viability relative to conventional agriculture.


Full report

PDF, 1.03 MB

Research Status
Research Groups
Climate change
Forestry Staff Saraev Vadim 02.2e16d0ba.fill 600x600 1
Principal Scientist
Forestry Staff Mike Perks.803521b6.fill 600x600 1
Funding & partners
  • ClimateXChange ScotlandClimateXChange Scotland
  • Scottish Government logoScottish Government