Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 93, Issue 3, pp 851–868 | Cite as

Carbon dynamics in cocoa agroforestry systems in Central Cameroon: afforestation of savannah as a sequestration opportunity

  • Annemarijn NijmeijerEmail author
  • Pierre-Éric Lauri
  • Jean-Michel Harmand
  • Stéphane SajEmail author


Afforestation of savannah is suggested as an approach to help addressing climate change mitigation through increased carbon (C) storage. Previous studies in Central Cameroon evidenced farmers’ ability to realize afforestation by establishing cocoa-based agroforestry systems (cAFS) on humid savannah. In this forest-savannah transition zone, we studied an 80 years chronosequence of cAFS to assess C dynamics. We selected cAFS established after forest or savannah, and we used local forest and savannah patches as controls. Aboveground carbon (AGC) was highest in the forests (118 Mg C ha−1) and lowest in the savannahs (8 Mg C ha−1). Systems established after forest (F-cAFS) revealed a mean AGC 40% lower than that of forests and did not evolve with time. The AGC of cAFS established after savannah (S-cAFS) increased with time and reached the mean AGC of F-cAFS (72 Mg C ha−1) after ca. 75 years. Soil organic carbon (SOC) concentration depended on clay content (R2 = 0.55, P < 0.001). The SOC concentration of F-cAFS did not evolve with time and revealed no difference with forest. In S-cAFS, considering a time of about 80 years after afforestation, the average annual increase in SOC concentration in the 0–15 cm layer ranged from 7.3‰ in soils with low clay content (10–15%) (R2 = 0.60, P < 0.01) to 9.5‰ in soils with higher clay content (20–25%). No significant change in SOC concentration was found for the 15–30 cm layer. Overall, S-cAFS revealed to store and maintain significant levels of C both in the aboveground biomass and in the soil. Such an afforestation thus appeared as a valuable local strategy to combine cocoa and other perennial plant productions with C storage while avoiding deforestation.


Humid savannah Carbon sequestration Climate change mitigation Land-use change Chronosequence 



This study was supported by the AFS4FOOD (EuropeAid/130-741/D/ACT/ACP) and SAFSE (CIRAD, IRD) projects as well as by CIRAD (French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development) and IRAD (Institute of Agricultural Research for Development of Cameroon). This research was conducted within the Research and Training Platform “DP Agroforestry Cameroon”. We thank A. Agoume and J.P. Bidias, our field assistants in Bokito, and E. Bouambi, research technician at IRAD.


  1. Ait Kadi M, Badraoui M, Soual M et al (2016) The initiative for the adaptation of African agriculture to climate change (AAA). Initiative adaptation of African agriculture, Bonn, pp 1–23Google Scholar
  2. Asari N, Suratman MN, Jafaar J, Khalid MM (2013) Estimation of aboveground biomass for oil palm plantations using allometric equations. Int Proc Chem Biol Environ Eng 58:110–114Google Scholar
  3. Asase A, Tetteh DA (2015) Tree diversity, carbon stocks, and soil nutrients in cocoa-dominated and mixed food crops agroforestry systems compared to natural forest in Southeast Ghana. Agroecol Sustain Food Syst. Google Scholar
  4. Barbosa RI, Fearnside PM (2005) Above-ground biomass and the fate of carbon after burning in the savannas of Roraima, Brazilian Amazonia. For Ecol Manag 216:295–316. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barros VR, Field CB, Dokken DJ et al (2014) IPCC, 2014: climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Part B: Regional aspects. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Beer J, Bonnemann A, Chavez W et al (1990) Modelling agroforestry systems of cacao (Theobroma cacao) with laures (Cordia alliodora) or poro (Erythrina poeppigiana) in Costa Rica. Agrofor Syst 12:229–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bouyoucos GJ (1951) A recalibration of the hydrometer method for making mechanical analysis of soils. Agron J 43:434–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boyer J (1973) Cycles de la matière organique et des éléments minéraux dans une cacaoyère Camerounaise. Café Cacao Thé 17:3–24Google Scholar
  9. Carsan S, Orwa C, Harwood C et al (2012) African wood density database. World Agroforestry Centre, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  10. Chave J, Andalo C, Brown S et al (2005) Tree allometry and improved estimation of carbon stocks and balance in tropical forests. Oecologia 145:87–99. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dawoe EK, Quashie-Sam JS, Oppong SK (2014) Effect of land-use conversion from forest to cocoa agroforest on soil characteristics and quality of a Ferric Lixisol in lowland humid Ghana. Agrofor Syst 88:87–99. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Beenhouwer M, Geeraert L, Mertens J et al (2016) Biodiversity and carbon storage co-benefits of coffee agroforestry across a gradient of increasing management intensity in the SW Ethiopian highlands. Agric Ecosyst Environ 222:193–199. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DeFries RS, Rudel T, Uriarte M, Hansen M (2010) Deforestation driven by urban population growth and agricultural trade in the twenty-first century. Nat Geosci 3:178–181. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Don A, Schumacher J, Freibauer A (2011) Impact of tropical land-use change on soil organic carbon stocks—a meta-analysis. Glob Chang Biol 17:1658–1670. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Duguma B, Gockowski J, Bakala J (2001) Smallholder cacao (Theobroma cacao Linn.) cultivation in agroforestry systems of West and Central Africa: challenges and opportunities. Agrofor Syst 51:177–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elangwe HN (1979) Carte géologique de la République du Cameroun Echelle 1:1 000 000. Ministère des mines l’eau l’énergie la République du Cameroun, YaoundéGoogle Scholar
  17. Epron D, Marsden C, M’Bou AT et al (2009) Soil carbon dynamics following afforestation of a tropical savannah with Eucalyptus in Congo. Plant Soil 323:309–322. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Freycon V (2017) Diagnostic des sols de Bakoa sous cacaoyères (Cameroun)Google Scholar
  19. Gama-Rodrigues EF, Ramachandran Nair PK, Nair VD et al (2010) Carbon storage in soil size fractions under two cacao agroforestry systems in Bahia, Brazil. Environ Manag 45:274–283. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gockowski J, Ndoumbé M (2004) The adoption of intensive monocrop horticulture in southern Cameroon. Agric Econ 30:195–202. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gockowski J, Sonwa D (2011) Cocoa intensification scenarios and their predicted impact on CO2 emissions, biodiversity conservation, and rural livelihoods in the Guinea rain forest of West Africa. Environ Manag 48:307–321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gockowski J, Weise S, Sonwa D, et al (2004) Conservation because it pays: shaded cocoa agroforests in West Africa. Paper Presented at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC on February 10, 2004 at a symposium titled ‘the science behind cocoa’s benefits’, p 29Google Scholar
  23. Guillet B, Achoundong G, Happi JY et al (2001) Agreement between floristic and soil organic carbon isotope (13C/12C, 14C) indicators of forest invasion of savannas during the last century in Cameroon. J Trop Ecol 17:809–832. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hairiah K, Sitompul S, van Noordwijk M, Palm C (2001) Methods for sampling carbon stocks above and below ground. ICRAF, Bogor, pp 1–23Google Scholar
  25. Heanes DL (1984) Determination of total organic-C in soils by an improved chromic acid digestion and spectrophotometric procedure. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 15:1191–1213. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hosonuma N, Herold M, De Sy V et al (2012) An assessment of deforestation and forest degradation drivers in developing countries. Environ Res Lett 7:44009. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hu YL, Zeng DH, Fan ZP et al (2008) Changes in ecosystem carbon stocks following grassland afforestation of semiarid sandy soil in the southeastern Keerqin Sandy Lands, China. J Arid Environ 72:2193–2200. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Isaac ME, Timmer VR, Quashie-Sam SJ (2007) Shade tree effects in an 8-year-old cocoa agroforestry system: biomass and nutrient diagnosis of Theobroma cacao by vector analysis. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 78:155–165. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jackson RB, Banner JL, Jobbágy EG et al (2002) Ecosystem carbon loss with woody plant invasion of grasslands. Nature 418:623–626. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jagoret P, Michel-Dounias I, Malézieux E (2011) Long-term dynamics of cocoa agroforests: a case study in central Cameroon. Agrofor Syst 81:267–278. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jagoret P, Michel-Dounias I, Snoeck D et al (2012) Afforestation of savannah with cocoa agroforestry systems: a small-farmer innovation in central Cameroon. Agrofor Syst 86:493–504. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jagoret P, Kwesseu J, Messie C et al (2014) Farmers’ assessment of the use value of agrobiodiversity in complex cocoa agroforestry systems in central Cameroon. Agrofor Syst 88:983–1000. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jones A, Breuning-Madsen H, Brossard M et al (2013) Soil Atlas of Africa. Publications Office of the European Union, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  34. Kearsley E, Moonen PC, Hufkens K et al (2017) Model performance of tree height-diameter relationships in the central Congo Basin. Ann For Sci 74:13. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kleinman PJ, Pimentel D, Bryant RB (1995) The ecological sustainability of slash-and-burn agriculture. Agric Ecosyst Environ 52:235–249. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Knicker H (2007) How does fire affect the nature and stability of soil organic nitrogen and carbon? A review. Biogeochemistry 85:91–118. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kotto-Same J, Woomer PL, Appolinaire M, Louis Z (1997) Carbon dynamics in slash-and-burn agriculture and land use alternatives of the humid forest zone in Cameroon. Agric Ecosyst Environ 65:245–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lipper L, Thornton P, Campbell BM et al (2014) Climate-smart agriculture for food security. Nat Clim Chang 4:1068–1072. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lorenz K, Lal R (2014) Soil organic carbon sequestration in agroforestry systems. A review. Agron Sustain Dev 34:443–454. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Magalhães TM, Seifert T (2015) Tree component biomass expansion factors and root-to-shoot ratio of Lebombo ironwood: measurement uncertainty. Carbon Balance Manag 10:9. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Minasny B, Malone BP, McBratney AB et al (2017) Soil carbon 4 per mille. Geoderma 292:59–86. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Montagnini F, Nair PKR (2004) Carbon sequestration: an underexploited environmental benefit of agroforestry systems. Agrofor Syst 61:281–295Google Scholar
  43. Nair PKR, Nair VD, Kumar BM, Haile SG (2009) Soil carbon sequestration in tropical agroforestry systems: a feasibility appraisal. Environ Sci Policy 12:1099–1111. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ngobo M, McDonald M, Weise S (2004) Impacts of type of fallow and invasion by Chromolaena odorata on weed communities in crop fields in Cameroon. Ecology and Society 9:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Njomgang R, Yemefack M, Nounamo L, Moukam A (2011) Dynamics of shifting agricultural systems and organic carbon sequestration in Southern Cameroon. Tropicultura 29:176–182Google Scholar
  46. Norgrove L, Hauser S (2013) Carbon stocks in shaded Theobroma cacao farms and adjacent secondary forests of similar age in Cameroon. Trop Ecol 54:15–22Google Scholar
  47. Palm CA, van Noordwijk M, Woomer PL et al (2005) Carbon losses and sequestration with land use change in the humid tropics. In: Palm CA, Vosti SA, Sanchez PA, Ericksen PJ (eds) Slash-and-burn agriculture—the search for alternatives. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 41–63Google Scholar
  48. Pan Y, Birdsey RA, Fang J et al (2011) A large and persistent carbon sink in the world’s forests. Science 333:988–993. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rahman SA, Rahman MF, Sunderland T (2012) Causes and consequences of shifting cultivation and its alternative in the hill tracts of eastern Bangladesh. Agrofor Syst 84:141–155. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Robert M (2001) Soil carbon sequestration for improved land management. World soil resources reports. FAO, Rome.
  51. Ruf F, Schroth G (2004) Chocolate forests and monocultures: a historical review of cocoa growing and its conflicting role in tropical deforestation and forest conservation. In: Schroth G, da Fonseca GAB, Harvey CA, Gascon C, Vasconcelos HL, Izac A-MN (eds) Agroforestry and biodiversity conservation in tropical landscapes. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 107–134Google Scholar
  52. Ruf F, Schroth G, Doffangui K (2015) Climate change, cocoa migrations and deforestation in West Africa: what does the past tell us about the future? Sustain Sci 10:101–111. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Saj S, Jagoret P, Todem Ngogue H (2013) Carbon storage and density dynamics of associated trees in three contrasting Theobroma cacao agroforests of Central Cameroon. Agrofor Syst 87:1309–1320. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Saj S, Durot C, Mvondo Sakouma K et al (2017) 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. Int J Agric Sustain 15(3):282–302. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sankaran M, Hanan NP, Scholes RJ et al (2005) Determinants of woody cover in African savannas. Nature 438:846–849. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schroth G, Läderach P, Martinez-Valle AI et al (2016) Vulnerability to climate change of cocoa in West Africa: patterns, opportunities and limits to adaptation. Sci Total Environ 556:231–241. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Silatsa FBT, Yemefack M, Ewane-Nonga N et al (2016) Modeling carbon stock dynamics under fallow and cocoa agroforest systems in the shifting agricultural landscape of Central Cameroon. Agrofor Syst. Google Scholar
  58. Sonwa DJ, Nkongmeneck BA, Weise SF et al (2007) Diversity of plants in cocoa agroforests in the humid forest zone of Southern Cameroon. Biodivers Conserv 16:2385–2400. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sonwa DJ, Weise SF, Nkongmeneck BA et al (2016) Structure and composition of cocoa agroforests in the humid forest zone of Southern Cameroon. Agrofor Syst. Google Scholar
  60. Takoutsing B, Weber JC, Tchoundjeu Z, Shepherd K (2016) Soil chemical properties dynamics as affected by land use change in the humid forest zone of Cameroon. Agrofor Syst 90:1089–1102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Vargas R, Allen MF, Allen EB (2008) Biomass and carbon accumulation in a fire chronosequence of a seasonally dry tropical forest. Glob Chang Biol 14:109–124. Google Scholar
  62. Wall A, Hytönen J (2005) Soil fertility of afforested arable land compared to continuously forested sites. Plant Soil 275:247–260. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wood GAR, Lass RA (2001) Cocoa, 4th edn. Blackwell Science, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yemefack M, Rossiter DG, Njomgang R (2005) Multi-scale characterization of soil variability within an agricultural landscape mosaic system in southern Cameroon. Geoderma 125:117–143. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zhang Q, Justice CO, Desanker PV (2002) Impacts of simulated shifting cultivation on deforestation and the carbon stocks of the forests of central Africa. Agric Ecosyst Environ 90:203–209. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zomer RJ, Trabucco A, Bossio DA, Verchot LV (2008) Climate change mitigation: a spatial analysis of global land suitability for clean development mechanism afforestation and reforestation. Agric Ecosyst Environ 126:67–80. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CIRAD, UMR SYSTEMMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.SYSTEM, Univ Montpellier, INRA, CIRAD, Montpellier SupAgro, CIHEAM-IAMMMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.IRAD, Département des plantes stimulantesYaoundéCameroon
  4. 4.CIRAD, UMR Eco&SolsMontpellierFrance
  5. 5.Eco&Sols, Univ Montpellier, CIRAD, INRA, IRD, Montpellier SupAgroMontpellierFrance
  6. 6.World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)YaoundéCameroon

Personalised recommendations