We know that services provided by trees are numerous, especially in agroforestry systems: decrease of erosion, soil microbiology, carbon sequestration, polluted water decontamination, economic development, etc. However, apart from carbon sequestration which is well documented, most of these services which are rendered free of charge by trees, are generally undervalued. For instance, the value of social services provided is often underestimated. Yet, planting trees can help improve food sovereigny, develop new revenues with the sale of fruit and timber and bring value to traditional cultures attached to certain tree species. How can we quantify all these services provided by trees? And why?
To answer these questions, we have created Pur Lab, with companies partnered with Pur Projet who wish to better promote the benefits of agroforestry projects in the agricultural sectors. The objective of this “laboratory” is to measure and quantify all services rendered by trees.
To achieve this, Pur Lab has developed a scientific methodology based on an holistic and transparent approach. This comprises 49 services rendered on different levels of the sector: agricultural system, environment, people and business. Pur Lab draws on a rich scientific bibliography (over 800 at the present time) and partnerships with universities to implement measurement protocols on the ground (Yale, UCL, Sup Agro, UNAS, etc… ). The involvement of partner companies is essential as it provides experimental fields at the very heart of agricultural sectors.
The initial results in the coffee sector of Oro Verde, Peru confirm that when considering all the services rendered, there is no better investment than trees: for an initial investment of USD $3, one tree planted in this sector allows a return of USD $18 per year (sale of timber, soil enrichment, pollination of coffee plants, carbon sequestration, increased yields, better quality coffee …).
Obviously, the values of trees go beyond the sole economic interest. The objective of Pur Lab is to show that in a given project and in a specific context, the set of all ecosystem services provided by trees can have an exceptional value. The scientific approach brings an additional dimension to the projects as it helps to improve the knowledge on agroforestry, and to better understand all the issues related to the sustainable development of the agricultural sector. Issues for which trees represent a valuable solution without a doubt.