Matthew Bright's Doctoral Scholarly Seminar
A Doctoral Scholarly Seminar will be presented by Matthew Bright, PhD Candidate in Soil Science. His presentation is Shrubs, Sand, and the Sahel: The Role of Agroforestry in Sustainaing Agroecosystems of Sub-Saharan Africa in 333 Kottman Hall.
The West African Sahel is at the nexus of extreme environmental, socio-economic, and food security challenges. Subsistence farmers in the region contend with recurring drought, sandy soils with poor natural fertility, limited use of fertilizers, and low investment in crop breeding. To maintain yields against these formidable challenges requires sustainable land use practices that increase soil carbon. Agroforestry systems, which are an extension of the region’s natural savanna ecosystem and rely on preserving trees and shrubs next to crops, are frequently promoted as a viable means to increase yields. This seminar examines the history, scope, and outcomes of agroforestry research in the Sahel focusing on the expanding dominance of shrubs and the role that they play in sustaining agroecosystem function. The remarkable ecology of intercropping and how shrubs do not compete with crops for limited soil nutrients, water, and light will also be discussed in addition to the challenges for agroforestry adoption. Our research suggests that the increasing dominance shrubs across the Sahel, their ability to produce abundant biomass unpalatable to livestock, and their unique ecological adaptation to farming make them keystone species critical for increasing food security and mitigating climate change.
Richard Dick, advisor