This article explores silvopasture as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.
This is what I loved about Project Drawdown, it saw ideas that very few were talking about come out as being highly effective and other more mainstream solutions rank lower or miss out on the top 100 entirely.
I have to admit I knew very little about silvopasture before reading about it in Drawdown. It certainly challenged my perception about cows and their role in driving climate change.
The authors begin with the following explanation:
“From the Latin for ‘forest’ and ‘grazing,’ silvopasture is just that: the integration of trees and pasture for forage into a single system for raising livestock, from cattle and sheep to deer and ducks. Rather than seeing trees as a weed to be remove, silvopasture integrates them into a sustainable and symbiotic system.”
This practice covers 350 million acres worldwide, which was a figure that surprised me.
Let’s look into the numbers that allowed silvopasture to be ranked as the 9th most effective solution to reverse global warming. Silvopasture could reduce CO2 emissions by 31.19 gigatons, for a net cost of $41.6 billion but produce $699.4 billion in net savings. This is certainly a solution with incredible potential.
The authors explain that: “cattle and other ruminants require 30 to 45 percent of the world’s arable land and produce roughly one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions.” This is obviously a significant problem.
The authors detail that: “silvopastural systems sequester carbon in both the biomass aboveground and the soil below. Pastures that are strewn or crisscrossed with trees sequester five to ten times as much carbon as those of the same size that are treeless.” This certainly sounds promising.
The authors also explain that: “because the livestock yield on a silvopasture plot is higher… it may curtail the need for additional pasture space and thus help avoid deforestation and subsequent carbon emissions.”
The authors also point towards evidence which shows: “that ruminants can better digest silvopastural forage, emitting lower amounts of methane in the process.”
The authors also point to towards another benefit, which is that: “from a financial and risk perspective, silvopasture is useful for its diversification.”
Additionally: “silvopasture can cut farmers’ costs by reducing the need for feed, fertiliser, and herbicides.”
Despite all these benefits, for silvopasture: “its growth has been limited by both practical and cultural factors.” Which seems such a shame.
The authors close with the following hopeful message:
“As the impacts of global warming progress, silvopasture’s appeal will likely grow, as it can help farmers and their livestock adapt to erratic weather and increased drought. Trees create cooler microclimates and more protective environments, and can moderate water availability.”
What you need to know
This article explored silvopasture as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of project drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.
Coming in at number 9, silvopasture was therefore rated as being extremely effective. Its costs are reasonably low and it has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by massive amounts.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of silvopasture as a climate change solution?