Potential of agroforestry in Panama: a mechanistic land-use modelling approach

Foto: Carola Paul

A major challenge of this century is to satisfy the increasing food and energy demands of a growing world population without further depleting natural resources. Agroforestry has been promoted as a way to meet these demands while providing a higher level of ecosystem services. Past research in this field has often focused on the plot level, but scientists and policy-makers are calling for multi-functional landscapes, which support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 15.

This project aims to develop a mechanistic land-use modelling approach for multi-functionality, to identify the conditions under which agroforestry could contribute to reducing land-use conflicts. It will investigate the level of diversification most appropriate at the plot, farm and landscape levels to bring together public interests and farmers' objectives. For this purpose single- and multi-objective modelling approaches to optimize land-use allocation under uncertainty will be further developed. As a prototype, the approach will be developed for a typical tropical landscape at the forest frontier in eastern Panama.

A landscape level approach will first tackle the question of how much agroforestry is desirable in a landscape portfolio to achieve multiple ecosystem services while reducing trade-offs between them (multi-objective model). A farm level model will investigate how agroforestry should be designed to be an efficient part of a farm portfolio that satisfies the farmer’s (most likely economic) needs (single-objective model). The key question to answer will be whether including efficient agroforestry systems may reduce differences in the landscapes optimized from farmers' and the public perspective.