Scattered trees: a complementary strategy for facilitating adaptive responses to climate change in modified landscape?
Manning, AD; Gibbons, P; Lindenmayer, DB. 2009. Scattered trees: a complementary strategy for facilitating adaptive responses to climate change in modified landscapes?. JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY 46 (4): 915-919.
In this interesting and information-rich paper, the authors highlight the importance that scattered trees will have in facilitating adaptation to climate change across landscapes. The strength of the paper is that it provides practical strategies that land managers, policy-makers, and ecologists can implement to promote the establishment of scattered trees in various landscape settings. It also links the concept of scattered trees to recent ecological theory focused on maintaing biodiversity across the landscape.
In planning for climate change adaptation, it's important that we move away from the 'ecological reserve' model, and focus on creating 'ecological networks' that integrate reserve patches, corridors, and the surrounding landscape. This is where scattered trees provide their greatest benefit: they provide sparse cover and habitat for species across whole landscapes, thus linking larger nodes in the network.
The authors also argue that scattered trees have great utility in areas where conservation and production coexist, in that they offer significant benefits for improving soil fertility, water conservation, and habitat for pest-eaters and pollinators. I can think of numerous examples from my previous work (promoting agroforestry practices in the Sahel) that support these findings. In The Gambia and Senegal, the native Acacia albida tree is grown in fields and dramatically improves soil properties and prevents erosion, while providing habitat perches for birds that ease the transition from forest to cropland. Similarly, non-native Baobab trees (Adansonia digita) provide cultural and ecological benefits. I think these findings will provide even more justification for the integration of agroforestry practices, particularly in developing countries where increases in agriculture are causing significant land use changes.