Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites always use a .gov or .mil domain. Before sharing sensitive information online, make sure you’re on a .gov or .mil site by inspecting your browser’s address (or “location”) bar.

SSL

This site is also protected by an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate that’s been signed by the U.S. government. The https:// means all transmitted data is encrypted — in other words, any information or browsing history that you provide is transmitted securely.

Climate Change

Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners always face challenges posed by weather, however these challenges are getting more frequent and extreme. Our changing climate is a growing concern and evidence suggests that the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has caused, and will continue to cause, incremental warming and other climate change impacts.

Preparing and Responding to Climate Risks

Increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods can lead to yield reductions or crop and livestock losses. Agroforestry can help landowners prepare for and respond to the risks that come from a changing climate.

Flooding

Once established, trees and shrubs are often more drought and flood tolerant than annual plants. Agroforestry practices can help producers adapt to increased rain intensity by intercepting rainfall, increasing infiltration, and reducing the quantity, speed, and peak flows of runoff. For example, conservation buffers in riparian areas and other parts of the landscape can reduce flood and erosion risks for downstream farms and communities by slowing runoff and stabilizing stream banks. Additionally, riparian forest buffer shade can maintain cold-water fish habitat in areas where stream temperatures may rise.

Flooded willows.
Perennial trees and shrubs can help hold the soil, protect streambanks and reduce in-field sedimentation during flood events. (Photo courtesy of Josh Gamble)

Heat

Predicted higher temperatures may pose a significant challenge for animal production systems. Agroforestry practices can reduce heat stress on livestock by providing shade and moderating the microclimate. Reducing windspeed in the winter by using agroforestry practices, particularly windbreaks, can also lower livestock stress, improve feeding efficiency, and enhance survival during lambing and or calving season.

Cattle grazing under pine trees.
Cattle usually prefer natural shade to artificial shade structures. Evenly distributed shade helps to prevent cattle from congregating. (USDA National Agroforestry Center photo)

Wind Erosion

Current wind erosion and airborne dust problems are likely to increase in the future. During the 1930s Dust Bowl, windbreaks were planted in the Great Plains to control wind erosion and protect crops, and they remain a logical choice for addressing the same issues today. Climate change effects and issues will vary regionally and it is important to consider how these differences will influence application of agroforestry in a specific region.

Black and white photo of two farmers working their crops next to a windbreak.
Thousands of miles of windbreaks were planted after the Dust Bowl era to protect orchards, crops, livestock and farmsteads. (USDA National Agroforestry Center photo)

Greenhouse Gases

Agroforestry can also help mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Trees and shrubs on agricultural lands can take carbon dioxide out of the air and "store" it in stems and roots. Agroforestry practices can reduce emissions by increasing soil carbon, decreasing fossil fuel usage by reduced equipment runs in fields, enhancing energy conservation around farm buildings, and improving use of nitrogen fertilizer.

Plant Adaptation

To be an effective adaptation and mitigation option, agroforestry plant materials must themselves be adaptable to climate change effects. Changing climatic conditions will impact plant survival and function, which, in turn, determines agroforestry’s effectiveness as a climate-smart strategy. Assessing suitability of species under future climate regimes will be an important step.

Information Sheets

  • Infosheet

    publication cover

    How Can Agroforestry Help Landowners Adapt To Increased Rain Intensity?

    DownloadOrder
  • Infosheet

    publication cover

    How Can Agroforestry Help Landowners Adapt To Climate Change?

    DownloadOrder
  • Infosheet

    publication cover

    Mitigating Heat Stress In Cattle

    DownloadOrder
  • Infosheet

    publication cover

    Mitigando El Estrés Por Calor En Ganado

    DownloadOrder

Brochures

Inside Agroforestry

  • Inside Agroforestry

    publication cover

    So Many Trees To Choose From

    Download
  • Inside Agroforestry

    publication cover

    Extreme Weather

    Download
  • Inside Agroforestry

    publication cover

    Small, But Mighty

    Download
  • Inside Agroforestry

    publication cover

    Breathe In. Okay, Now Breathe Out

    Download
  • Inside Agroforestry

    publication cover

    Beyond The Fence Line

    Download
  • Inside Agroforestry

    publication cover

    Fuel For The Future

    Download
  • Inside Agroforestry

    publication cover

    ... Including The Carbon Sink

    Download

Agroforestry Notes

    Research

    • Research

      publication cover

      Executive Summary - Agroforestry: Enhancing Resiliency In U.S. Agricultural Landscapes Under Changing Conditions

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Agroforestry: Enhancing Resiliency In U.S. Agricultural Landscapes Under Changing Conditions

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Analyzing The Uncertainties In Use Of Forest-derived Biomass Equations For Open-grown Trees In Agricultural Land

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Working Trees: Supporting Agriculture And Healthy Landscapes

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Simulating The Dynamics Of Linear Forests In Great Plains Agroecosystems Unfer Changing Climates

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Biofuel Feedstock From Riparian Buffers: A Win-win For Climate And Water Quality

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Branching Out: Agroforestry As A Climate Change Mitigation And Adaptation Tool For Agriculture

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      The Use Of Forest-derived Specific Gravity For The Conversion Of Volume To Biomass For Open-grown Trees On Agricultural Land

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      A Spatial Model Approach For Assessing Windbreak Growth And Carbon Stocks

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Carbon Sequestration In Agricultural Lands Of The United States

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Agroforestry: Working Trees For Sequestering Carbon On Agricultural Lands

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Building Bigger Better Buffers For Bioenergy

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Developing Above-ground Woody Biomass Equations For Open-grown, Multi-stemmed Tree Species: Shelterbelt-grown Russian-olive

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      Agroforestry-Working Trees For Sequestering Carbon On Ag-Lands

      Download
    • Research

      publication cover

      CBD Technical Series No. 10 - Interlinkages Between Biological Diversity And Climate Change

      Download

    More Publications

    • More Publications

      publication cover

      Buffers For Biomass Production In Temperate European Agriculture: A Review And Synthesis On Function, Ecosystem Services And Implementation

      Download
    • More Publications

      publication cover

      Adding Bioenergy To The Agroforestry Mix

      Download
    https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/topics/climate-change.php