Carbon sequestration potential of parkland agroforestry in the Sahel


Establishing parkland agroforestry on currently treeless cropland in the West African Sahel may help mitigate climate change. To evaluate its potential, we used climatically suitable ranges for parklands for 19 climate scenarios, derived by ecological niche modeling, for estimating potential carbon stocks in parkland and treeless cropland. A biocarbon business model was used to evaluate profitability of hypothetical Terrestrial Carbon Projects (TCPs), across a range of farm sizes, farm numbers, carbon prices and benefit sharing mechanisms. Using climate analogues, we explored potential climate change trajectories for selected locations. If mature parklands covered their maximum range, carbon stocks in Sahelian productive land would be about 1,284 Tg, compared to 725 Tg in a treeless scenario. Due to slow increase rates of total system carbon by 0.4 Mg C ha−1 a−1, most TCPs at carbon prices that seem realistic today were not feasible, or required the participation of large numbers of farmers. For small farms, few TCP scenarios were feasible, and low Net Present Values for farmers made it unlikely that carbon payments would motivate many to participate in TCPs, unless additional benefits were provided. Climate analogue locations indicated an uncertain climate trajectory for the Sahel, but most scenarios projected increasing aridity and reduced suitability for parklands. The potentially severe impacts of climate change on Sahelian ecosystems and the uncertain profitability of TCPs make the Sahel highly risky for carbon investments. Given the likelihood of degrading environmental conditions, the search for appropriate adaptation strategies should take precedence over promoting mitigation activities.