Agricultural production is strongly affected by climate change, often leaving resource poor rural populations more vulnerable to shocks, while also contributing to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases. Trees are affected by climate variability and change, and in turn can influence regional climate by altering atmospheric processes, including water budgets. Trees on farms can have considerable effects on smallholder livelihoods, both by improving ecosystem services or functions and by increasing or diversifying farm income and food and nutritional security. These features improve farmers’ capacities to cope with climate (and other) shocks while providing important mitigation co-benefits by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere in tree biomass. Agroforestry can therefore be considered as “climate-smart” because it combines improved livelihoods with mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.

The Climate Change Unit investigates the effects of trees on reducing farmers’ vulnerability to climate variability and change and their contribution to greenhouse gas mitigation. This involves biophysical, socioeconomic and policy related research, for instance by assessing greenhouse gas fluxes of different agroforestry systems at the landscape scale; estimating costs and benefits as well as synergies and tradeoffs of investing in trees on farms; or by assessing the policies, governance, institutions and markets that enable successful scaling up in different contexts.

We also identify how trees are affected by or influence climate, for instance through dendrochronology or modeling of land cover and land use change. In addition, we work on tools, methods and strategies that connect farmers with climate finance, embed agriculture and forestry into national and international climate policy frameworks and support tree-based sustainable bioenergy solutions for smallholders.