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Contribution of associated trees to long-term species conservation, carbon storage and sustainability: A functional analysis of tree communities in cacao plantations of Central Cameroon

Saj S., Durot C., Mvondo Sakouma K., Tayo Gamo K., Avana-Tientcheu M.L.. 2017. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 15 (3) : p. 282-302.

DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2017.1311764

In Central Africa, most cacao is still cultivated in low-input agroforests where cacao associated trees are traditionally valued by farmers. These systems are sustainable on the long run, support biodiversity conservation and carbon storage. Yet, little knowledge exists on the contribution of tree community management to explain such results. In Central Cameroon, we investigated cacao agroforest associated tree community contributions to the long-term (i) maintenance of tree species encountering a conservation issue and (ii) carbon storage. We further simulated the simplification of these systems by checking for the effect of tree density decrease on community functional groups or traits. Finally, we linked farmers' use of associated trees to their functional features and conservation status. Cacao agroforestry systems were able to combine high levels of species richness with long-term conservation abilities and carbon storage. Simplification emphasized consistent shifts of functional traits/groups that will change the way they function and alter the existing balances between different associated tree uses. Since traditional agroforests are now foreseen as providers of timber/non-timber forest products, our study argues that this paradigm change in such low-input systems - if carried improperly - is likely to impair the provision of the services they currently provide as well as their sustainability.

Mots-clés : theobroma cacao; culture associée; arbre forestier; agroforesterie; agriculture durable; séquestration du carbone; conservation des ressources; conservation des forêts; aménagement forestier; biodiversité; services écosystémiques; arbre à buts multiples; produit forestier; produit forestier non ligneux; cameroun

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