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Case Studies:  Agroforestry systems managed through natural succession in Bahia, Brazil
Agroforestry systems managed through natural succession in Bahia, Brazil
Overview: Agroforestry systems managed using natural succession were tested as a strategy for improving degraded soils and as a sustainable production system in the Rainforest Region, South of Bahia, Brazil.
Scale: field, farm


Itubera, Bahia, Brazil. (39.3W 13.7S)
Elevation: 150 - 600 meters
Climate: Tropical Rainforest (Af, Am)
Agricultural Region: Rudimentary Sedentary Cultivation; Shifting cultivation; Plantation Agriculture
Population Density: 10-25 / square kilometer
Principal Crops: Cacao (Theobroma cacao)
Domestic Animals: None
Soils: Oxisols and Ultisols
Natural Vegetation: Broadleaf evergreen trees; Atlantic Tropical Rainforest
Ecoregion: Rainforest Province (Tr3); Atlantic Tropical Rainforest
Basic Principles: Use Renewable Resources, Minimize Toxics, Conserve Resources, Manage Ecological Relationships, Adjust to Local Environments, Diversify, Empower People, Manage Whole Systems, Maximize Long-Term Benefits, Value Health
page prepared by: Fabiana Mongeli Peneireiro

Description: A comparison was made between agroforestry systems and an area in fallow (Capoeira) to identify vegetational and edaphic effects of an agroforestry system managed through natural succession (SAF) in the Rainforest Region South of Bahia, Brazil.  The SAF agroforestry system was tested as a strategy for degraded soil recovery and as a sustainable production system with the potential of replacing present agricultural patterns.  The main practices used in SAF implementation and management are: high biodiversity, high density, natural regeneration as part of the system, and selective cutting and pruning.  Productive and biodiverse agroforestry systems can repair degraded soil, improving both soil fertility and biodiversity.

Lessons learned: It is very important to consider the structure of local natural ecosystems in designing agroforestry systems, and to choose species adapted to local conditions. Observations on indicator species help in understanding the phases of succession and in determining which associations are better for agroforestry. Plantings must be very biodiverse and dense, and management must respect the order of each species in succession and the ecophysiological necessity of each one. Then, selective cutting and pruning practices can be applied, based on natural processes like pests and disease, or branches broken by the wind, respecting ecosystem stratification and the dominant association. The SAF agroforestry system improved soil fertility by tapping nutrients deep within the soil profile and by increasing the activity of soil biota. The use of natural succession-based management practices makes agroforestry systems dynamic and promotes nutrient cycling, contributing to maintenance of ecosystem health.  

Principles illustrated:

Use Renewable Resources: Successional agroforestry management enhances natural mechanisms of nutrient recycling on farm.
Minimize Toxics: This agroforestry system produces cacao without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Conserve Resources: Successional agroforestry systems conserve local biodiversity and soil nutrients.
Manage Ecological Relationships: By managing succession and respecting the ecophysiological requirements of each species, interaction among species and niche utilization efficiency are improved.
Adjust to Local Environments: Because these systems are based on mimicking local natural ecosystems, successional agroforestry systems are adapted to local environments.
Diversify: In this system, crops grow together with local plants, forming a highly biodiverse system.  The use of different crops makes it possible to harvest different crops over the year, diversifying the seasonal timing of production
Empower People: This system promotes independence of small farmers and values local knowledge.
Manage Whole Systems: Management of successional agroforestry systems involves managing entire landscapes.
Maximize Long-Term Benefits: Successional agroforestry improves soil fertility over the long-term by managing organic matter through pruning and by mobilizing nutrients deep within the soil.  By making use of trees and other perennials, value is increased over time.
Value Health: Agroforestry systems provide a diversity of products with high nutritive value to support a healthy diet for farmers and consumers. Natural succession-based management helps to maintain ecosystem health.

 More information:

Pictures & Charts of Successional Agroforestry Systems


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Copyright 1999 Agroecology Research Group, Last modified: 10/01/03.