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Extent, pattern, and multifunctionality of treed habitats on farms in Vermont, USA

Abstract

Agroecosystems can serve as multifunctional landscapes when treed habitats such as woodlots, hedgerows, riparian buffers, windbreaks, and orchards, are conserved on farms. We investigated the extent, pattern, and multifunctionality of on-farm treed habitats for 16 Vermont farms in the Lamoille watershed of the Lake Champlain Basin. The site was selected because the land use pattern is representative of the region, containing a mixture of agriculture and forest in different habitat types. We used a GIS-based approach to delineate treed habitats on farms and conducted semi-structured interviews with farmers to explore their perception of the functions of treed habitats. Through an evaluation of the relationship between farm characteristics and spatial attributes of treed habitats, we found farm size to be an important variable. Larger farms had more land in treed habitats, while the pattern of these habitats was more complex on smaller farms. Average elevation of the farm, an indicator of biophysical conditions, was a stronger predictor of the extent of treed habitats than farm characteristics. From interviews, we found that farmers benefited from alternative forest products, both for direct consumption and sale, including firewood, timber, maple sugar, edible fruits and nuts, and wood crafts. Most farmers also recognized cultural and ecological functions provided by treed habitats. These results have implications for developing policies to promote the conservation of treed habitats, considering the preferences of the landowner or farmer.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the participating farmers for the time they committed to this effort. We are also grateful to Jim Eikenberry of Lamoille County, Vermont NRCS office, for providing valuable time and support throughout the research process.

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Correspondence to Sarah Taylor Lovell.

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Lovell, S.T., Mendez, V.E., Erickson, D.L. et al. Extent, pattern, and multifunctionality of treed habitats on farms in Vermont, USA. Agroforest Syst 80, 153–171 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-010-9328-5

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Keywords

  • Multifunctional landscape
  • Farm design
  • Landscape agroecology
  • Vegetative buffers
  • Agricultural systems
  • Sustainable agriculture