Theme 1: AgroForestry Systems (AFS) as providers of environmental services

    What methods and tools can we use to evaluate the environmental impacts of AFS?
    How do we value and certify environmental services generated by AFS?

The objective of this theme is to develop methods and tools to evaluate environmental impacts of AFS, in order to measure and value their contribution to the provision of ES.

AFS with perennial crops are generally imbedded in a mosaic of agricultural and forested areas where interactions between these land uses determine environmental functions such as the water quality/yield of a catchment, and biodiversity conservation at the landscape scale. Consequently methodologies for impact monitoring will be developed to scale up and integrate biophysical results from plot and farm level to watershed or other higher levels (e.g., using Geographic Information Services [GIS]). Pilot studies will be carried out in different climatic and soil conditions on at least the following issues: biodiversity inventories, water balance (including runoff and drainage), soil erosion, changes in carbon accumulation in soil and vegetation (including avoiding deforestation), nitrate leaching.

The methods and tools developed in these pilot studies will be targeted to specific users, including scientists, certification agencies, local governments, NGOs and farmers.


The Central American Isthmus is one of the tropical regions where many lessons have been learnt on the ES provided by AFS, and on their valuation. The platform partners have developed numerous studies of AFS and produced valuable data for integrated impact assessment.For example, recent studies have shown that mammalian, bird, bat and beetle diversity in cacao AFS in a forested landscape was comparable to adjacent natural forests and significantly higher than for other land uses on the same farms.

The Mesoamerican region is a recognized leader respect carbon trading and biodiversity inventories as well as protection and commercial use of this biodiversity. Pilot schemes to manage the payment for ES provided by livestock and cacao AFS have been developed and successfully tested; e.g., with indigenous groups. Markets for hydrological ES have been designed and implemented in several Central American countries; in these cases most payments to farmers depend on the adoption of AFS in prioritized areas.

A key challenge is to translate the inherent complexity of the evaluation of ES provided by AFS into relevant tools and methods to certify, value and sell these ES at different scales and for diverse stakeholders. The complexity arises from the systems themselves, which combine different species but the evaluation of a service is also a complex issue, as it requires comparisons; e.g. the well-known CDM mechanism.

Additionally the scaling-up issue is challenging, particularly when it refers to water or biodiversity and connectivity between areas within the MBC.


  • Development and validation, in various ecological and management conditions, of scientific methodologies and plot level models to quantify and value ES and environmental impacts of AFS; e.g. nitrate leaching, N2O emission, carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, soil fertility conservation (includes reduced erosion) and water balances (changes in infiltration, evapo-transpiration, runoff).
  • Development of models to transfer results respect ES from pilot areas to new areas thereby facilitating the identification of best practices, the generalization of results and most importantly, reducing the implementing costs of future schemes to pay for ES.
  • Development of methodologies to integrate information from plant, plot and farm levels to landscape and watershed levels (e.g. based on Soil Vegetation Atmosphere Transfer (SVAT) models, remote sensing and GIS) to support local payment schemes for ES as well as regional and national decision making.
  • Development of simplified methodologies, which are cost effective and practical, so that non-specialists (e.g., local authorities) can estimate ES; e.g. develop and test the value of integrative indicators such as tree cover.
  • Development of criteria and methods to prioritize zones, systems and potential environmental services with the highest potential to provide benefits for both farmers and society.
  • Establishment of an integral and holistic approach to promote the recognition and appropriation by farmers of the value of the ES provided by their farms. This approach should combine markets for ES with price premiums for adoption of best practices, improved market access through shortened value chains, etc.


Rolando CERDA, soil quality and carbon storage, CATIE [email]
Jacques AVELINO, phytopathologist, CIRAD [email] [publications]
Carlos CERDAN, PhD student, CATIE/University of Bangor [email]
Fabien CHARBONNIER, PhD student, CIRAD [email]
Fabrice DE CLERCK, landscape ecologist, CATIE [email]
Olivier DEHEUVEULS, cacao agronomist, CIRAD [email] [publications]
Miguel-Angel DITTA, phytopathologist, Bioversity [email]
Abigail FALLOT, economist, bioenergy, CIRAD [email] [publications]
Mariela LEANDRO, PhD student, CATIE [email]
Jean-Michel HARMAND, soil biologist, CIRAD [email] [publications]
Pablo IMBACH, climate scientist, CATIE [email]
Olivier ROUPSARD, ecophysiologist, CIRAD [email] [publications]
Gabriela SOTO, soil biologist and label specialist, CATIE [email]
Karel VAN DER MEERSCHE, soil organic matter recycling, CIRAD [email]
Mario VILLATORO, PhD student, erosion and coffee farmer practices [email]
Kristen WELSH, PhD student, hydrology and nutrients [email]