Can joint carbon and biodiversity management in tropical agroforestry landscapes be optimized?

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47192. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047192. Epub 2012 Oct 15.


Managing ecosystems for carbon storage may also benefit biodiversity conservation, but such a potential 'win-win' scenario has not yet been assessed for tropical agroforestry landscapes. We measured above- and below-ground carbon stocks as well as the species richness of four groups of plants and eight of animals on 14 representative plots in Sulawesi, Indonesia, ranging from natural rainforest to cacao agroforests that have replaced former natural forest. The conversion of natural forests with carbon stocks of 227-362 Mg C ha(-1) to agroforests with 82-211 Mg C ha(-1) showed no relationships to overall biodiversity but led to a significant loss of forest-related species richness. We conclude that the conservation of the forest-related biodiversity, and to a lesser degree of carbon stocks, mainly depends on the preservation of natural forest habitats. In the three most carbon-rich agroforestry systems, carbon stocks were about 60% of those of natural forest, suggesting that 1.6 ha of optimally managed agroforest can contribute to the conservation of carbon stocks as much as 1 ha of natural forest. However, agroforestry systems had comparatively low biodiversity, and we found no evidence for a tight link between carbon storage and biodiversity. Yet, potential win-win agroforestry management solutions include combining high shade-tree quality which favours biodiversity with cacao-yield adapted shade levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Biomass
  • Cacao / metabolism
  • Carbon / analysis
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods
  • Forestry / methods*
  • Indonesia
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Trees / metabolism*
  • Tropical Climate


  • Soil
  • Carbon

Grant support

This study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), grant SFB-552 (Collaborative Research Centre ‘Stability of Rainforest Margins in Indonesia’). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.