Of the five major temperate agroforestry systems silvopastoralism is probably the least researched and understood. This compendium of papers from proceedings of an International Congress held in Lugo, Spain in 2004 fills a niche and shows that there is a lot happening in this area, especially in Europe. One paper quotes "in a case study that investigated 40 pastoral systems of all the countries of the Mediterranean basin, up to eight different forage resources were present in a single case, with an average of five." An issue in many cases is convincing farmers to integrate trees into pasture systems. As some of the papers show, many silvopasture systems are a dying legacy of long held farming practices. However, there is perhaps a bright future given the multiple environmental and economic benefits, and the opportunities silvopasture provides on marginal lands. The book is divided into 5 sessions:
- Silvopastoral systems: types and main design.
- Silvopastoral management, productivity and quality.
- Ecological implications of silvopastoral systems: biodiversity and sustainable development.
- Economical, social and cultural benefits of silvopastoral systems.
- Future perspectives of silvopastoral systems in a world context.
|Silvopastoralism and Sustainable Land Management, Edited by M. R. Mosquera-Losada, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain; A. Rigueiro-Rodriguez, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain; and J. McAdam, Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. 2005, CABI Publishing, 432 pages. Hardback, List $140.00. ISBN 1845930010|
The first section on type and design focused on systems in Europe with a few cases from Latin America and one from an island off Africa - Sao Tome. Unfortunately, there are few non-European papers overall which is probably a symptom of the attendees at the Congress but, the breadth and depth of some of the European studies help make up for this shortcoming. This of course implies that the proceedings have temperate region slant.
Session two, which was the largest section of the book, focused on pasture vegetation, silviculture practices, regeneration and fodder production. I noted a few papers from Latin America and one on live fences paper from Mali. The diversity of issues, products and uses covered was quite impressive, including systems with goats, sheep and horses. There were even a few papers looking at role of sludge and biosolids and some very interesting papers looking at coppicing techniques.
The third session on ecological factors addressed issues such as carbon storage, biodiversity and soil compaction. Soil compaction and root interactions are a big concern with tree planting in pastures in the United States. For ecologists there are a plethora of papers on nutrient analysis, role of fires, root and soil water relationships and even a paper on dendrochronology.
For me, the most interesting part was on the socioeconomic aspects of silvopasture. Getting farmers and landowners to develop silvopasture systems depends a lot on the economic returns and risk for the landowner. Finding low input cost systems and providing incentives is critical. Papers in this session ranged from financial analysis and optimal control models to management and cultural adaptation under different silvicultural conditions. I was pleased to a see a couple of papers on incentives - one on the payment of environmental services to farmers in Costa Rica, albeit silvopasture was not the only practice farmers are getting paid for, and one on payments to farmers for conserving oak woodland in California.
The Congress did come out with a declaration for silvopastoralism and short summary of future research perspectives which are useful. Unfortunately there was not an overall introduction to the compendium or a synthesis of the status of worldwide silvopasture research and application. Nevertheless, the number and breadth of papers in the book is quite impressive, albeit quite a few are not much more then abstracts. In summary, this book has a lot to offer all types of agroforestry-related interests. There are even papers on rural sociology and fire prevention. I think this will be a good reference manual for anyone interested in this agroforestry system.
By Mike Jacobson, Editor
Penn State School of Forest Resources