Monday, 24 October 2016

10 year forest garden trial: half way report (online)

In 2010 two anonymous donors gave a total of nine thousand pounds to the Permaculture Association to conduct a ten year research trial into forest gardens in the UK. The idea was to give half of the money to a dozen newly established forest garden to help cover their set up costs, and to use the remaining money to monitor their progress and evolution over the following ten years. 

This report marks the half way point of that project. It reports on the progress of the forest gardens in the trial, and on what has been learned to date. Read it here.

Home gardens for food security (journal)

Home gardens: a promising approach to enhance household food security and wellbeing

This paper first examines definitions and characteristics of home gardens and then provides a global review of their social, economic, and environmental contributions to communities in various socio-economic contexts. Home garden research covers Africa, Asia, and Latin America; studies recognize positive impacts on food insecurity and malnutrition, income and livelihoods, and ecosystem services. However, only a handful of case studies were found on post-crisis settings. This review then investigates the home garden experiences of post-conflict Sri Lanka, where home gardening has been practiced for centuries. While emphasizing multiple benefits, the authors also highlight constraints to home garden food production. They emphasize the need for more research to appraise the role of home gardens, their economic value and their impacts on food security, nutrition, economic growth, and gender issues.

Agroforestry for climate change resilience (#journal)

Multipurpose agroforestry as a climate change resiliency option for farmers: an example of local adaptation in Vietnam

Increasing frequency, intensity and duration of severe weather events are posing major challenges to rural livelihoods. This study aimed to: (i) identify tree species that reduce vulnerability of cropping systems under climate variability; and (ii) develop a method for rapidly assessing vulnerability and exploring strategies of smallholder farmers. Participatory Rural Appraisal methods in combination with Geographical Information Systems tools and analysis of meteorological data were used to evaluate local vulnerability and to investigate local adaptation measures in Vietnam. While rice and rain-fed crops suffered over 40 % yield losses in years of extreme drought or flood, tree-based systems and cattle were less affected. 13 tree species performed well under the harsh local climate conditions in home and forest gardens to provide income, food, feed and other environmental benefits.

Urban food forestry (journal)

Introducing urban food forestry: a multifunctional approach to increase food security and provide ecosystem services

The authors examine the potential of perennial woody food-producing species (“food trees”) in cities and propose a multifunctional approach that combines elements of urban agriculture, urban forestry, and agroforestry into what they call “urban food forestry” (UFF). They use four approaches at different scales to gauge the potential of UFF to enhance urban sustainability and contribute to food security. They also develop a Climate–Food–Species Matrix of potential food trees appropriate for temperate urban environments, including 70 species, 30 of which were deemed “highly suitable” for urban food forestry. Untapped potential exists for urban food forestry to contribute to urban sustainability via increased food security and landscape multifunctionality.

Urban agroforestry (thesis)

This paper reviews examples of the current theory and practice of agroecology, agroforestry, and permaculture in urban ecosystems, and looks at possibilities for integrating agroecology, agroforestry, and permaculture design principles in order to deal with the unique challenges and opportunities of the urban ecosystem. These practices can lessen the ecological footprint of urban areas by increasing the production of ecosystems services. Urban agriculture and forestry can be integrated into an urban food forestry design system utilizing agroecological and permaculture principles and science.

Forest gardening in practice (book)

Forest Gardening In Practice: An Illustrated Practical Guide for Homes, Communities & Enterprise

A forest garden is a place where nature and people meet halfway, between the canopy of trees and the soil underfoot. For three decades experimental forest gardens have been planted in temperate cities and rural sites, in households, neighbourhoods, community gardens, parks, market gardens and plant nurseries. Forest Gardening In Practice is the first indepth review of forest gardening with living, best practice examples. It highlights the four core skills of forest gardeners: ecology, horticulture, design, cooperation. It is for hobby gardeners, smallholders, community gardeners and landscape professionals.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Forest garden takeover, October 2016

Forest Garden special; for one month only!

After the amazing popularity of Candela Vargas' new forest garden guide last month, I thought I'd dedicate The Digest to forest gardening for the whole of October. So everything I'm posting this month is in some way related to forest gardens or agroforestry (or both). Big thanks to Tomas Remiarz for inspiring this idea by sharing his bibliography with me. If you've got anything forest garden related you'd like me to post on The Digest, please email it, or a hyperlink to it, to by 23rd October. Thanks!

Trees for forest gardens (book)

Trees for Gardens, Orchards & Permaculture by Martin Crawford

Are you wondering which productive trees to plant in your garden? Or are you planning a forest garden? Perhaps you are planting an orchard but want a greater diversity of useful trees than is common? Or do you want to know what unusual fruit trees you can use? The answers to all these questions can be found here. Martin Crawford has researched and experimented with tree crops for 25 years and has selected over 100 of the best trees producing fruits, nuts, edible leaves and other useful products that can be grown in Europe and North America.

Edible forest gardens website (online)

Edible Forest Gardens

Edible Forest is dedicated to offering inspiring and practical information on the vision, ecology, design, and stewardship of perennial polycultures of multipurpose plants in small-scale settings.  We intend this website to grow into an information and networking resource for newcomers, amateurs, students, and serious practitioners and researchers alike.

Agroforestry Research Trust (online)

Agroforestry Research Trust

The ART is an educational and research organisation, founded in 1992 as a registered charity, to educate and conduct research into all aspects of agroforestry. Various academic and practical research projects have been undertaken since its formation, and results of research published by the Trust in a number of publications and in its own quarterly journal, Agroforestry News.  Courses and tours are also run on aspects of our work.

Agroforestry - next step for sustainable agriculture (#journal)

Agroforestry—The Next Step in Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture

Agriculture faces the unprecedented task of feeding a world population of 9 billion people by 2050 while simultaneously avoiding harmful environmental and social effects. In this paper, the authors examine current organic and conventional agriculture systems and suggest that agroforestry could be the next step in sustainable agriculture. By implementing systems that mimic nature’s functions, agroforestry has the potential to remain productive while supporting a range of ecosystem services. This paper outlines the common practices and products of agroforestry as well as beneficial environmental and social effects. It addresses barriers to agroforestry and explore potential options to alter policies and increase adoption by farmers. The paper concludes that agroforestry is one of the best land use strategies to contribute to food security while simultaneously limiting environmental degradation.

The importance of ecosystem diversity (#journal)

The functional role of producer diversity in ecosystems

This article reviews over two decades of experiments that have examined how species richness of primary producers influences the suite of ecological processes that are controlled by plants and algae in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems. Using formal meta-analyses, we assess the balance of evidence for eight fundamental questions and corresponding hypotheses about the functional role of producer diversity in ecosystems. These include questions about how primary producer diversity influences the efficiency of resource use and biomass production in ecosystems, how primary producer diversity influences the transfer and recycling of biomass to other trophic groups in a food web, and the number of species and spatial /temporal scales at which diversity effects are most apparent. After summarizing the balance of evidence and stating our own confidence in the conclusions, we outline several new questions that must now be addressed.

Classifying plants by functional types (#journal)

Plant functional types: an alternative to taxonomic plant community description in biogeography?

This article critically reviews the concept of plant functional types as an alternative to the traditional taxonomic species-based approach to plant community description in biogeography and ecology. Plant functional types are nonphylogenetic groupings of species that show close similarities in their response to environmental and biotic controls. Functional classifications often cut across taxonomic classifications and may be more meaningful in terms of plant response.

Practical applications of plant functional types in biogeography and ecology are also reviewed. Plant functional types can aid in the understanding of ecological processes, such as the assembly and stability of communities and succession, and facilitate the detection and prediction of response to environmental change at a range of scales. Despite its potential, the plant functional type approach is probably best viewed as a complementary approach to description using traditional taxonomy.

The importance of plant functional diversity (#journal)

Vive la différence: plant functional diversity matters to ecosystem processes

There is a growing consensus that functional diversity, or the value and range of species traits, rather than species numbers per se, strongly determines ecosystem functioning. Despite its importance, and the fact that species diversity is often an inadequate surrogate, functional diversity has been studied in relatively few cases. Approaches based on species richness on the one hand, and on functional traits and types on the other, have been extremely productive, but attempts to connect their findings have been rare. Crossfertilization between these two approaches is a promising way of gaining mechanistic insight into the links between plant diversity and ecosystem processes and contributing to practical management.

Forest gardens on the nature-culture continuum (#journal)

Forest gardens as an ‘intermediate’ land-use system in the nature–culture continuum: Characteristics and future potential

 Forest gardens are reconstructed natural forests, in which wild and cultivated plants coexist, such that the structural characteristics and ecological processes of natural forests are preserved, although the species composition has been adapted to suit human needs. They lie between natural forests and tree-crop plantations in terms of their structure and composition. Their management is characterized by combined use of silvicultural and horticultural operations, and spatial and temporal variations. These ecologically sustainable systems are often dynamic in species composition in response to changing socioeconomic conditions. Evolved over a long period of time as a result of local community's creativity, forest gardens have received little attention in agroforestry research. The study of forest gardens offers good opportunities for obtaining a better understanding of the ‘nature-analogous’ agroforestry systems and for developing multifunctional agroforestry systems combining production and biodiversity.

Socioeconomic conditions supporting forest gardens (#journal)

The socioeconomic conditions determining the development, persistence, and decline of forest garden systems

There is a range of forest management systems between pure extraction and plantation systems. Such “intermediate systems” range from wild forests modified for increased production of selected products to anthropogenic forests with a high-density of valuable species growing within a relatively diverse and complex structure. These systems, classed here as “Forest Garden Systems” (FGS), have important socioeconomic and ecological benefits, and yet they have been largely overlooked by researchers, development practitioners, and policy makers. Based on case examples and the authors’ experience, this paper analyzes the socioeconomic and institutional factors that explain the development, persistence, and decline of FGS.

Agro-successional restoration of tropical forests (#journal)

Agro-Successional Restoration as a Strategy to Facilitate Tropical Forest Recovery

With the increasing need to restore former agricultural lands in the tropics, it is critical to explore different models for how to restore these lands. The authors propose that agro-successional restoration, which they define as incorporating a range of agroecology and agroforestry techniques as a transition phase early in forest restoration, could be used more widely to overcome socioeconomic and ecological obstacles to restoring these lands. Over centuries, farmers and scientists have developed various agroforestry techniques that aim to cultivate crops and trees, in a range of crop types, time periods of cultivation (a few years to several decades), and complexity of species planted. The management practices used, such as weeding and increasing soil fertility, parallel those used in many forest restoration efforts. Benefits of the agro-successional model include extending the management period of restoration, offsetting some management costs, providing food security for small landholders, and involving small landholders.