Future Agriculture: Land Suitability for Trees and Permanent Crops

SENCE, our land suitability modelling technology, is proving to be a valuable tool for future agriculture assessment. Trees and permanent crops require long-term investment, so in a changing climate it is important to ascertain the long-term suitability of land for their production. Using SENCE, we have been working in the Caribbean to provide scientific evidence to guide land acquisition reconnaissance for a forest production enterprise. Our work established the biophysical suitability (climatic, topographic and soil characteristics) of land for four different tree species, modelled at national scale. Using different climate scenarios stretching through to 2080, we located areas that will remain suitable for each tree species in a changing climate.

future agriculture
This map shows the long-range suitability for tree planting on optimal soils
The analysis revealed that extensive areas would become of limited suitability, or totally unsuitable, for some of the tree species due largely to a predicted reduction in rainfall. The assessment went on to factor in other considerations, narrowing the search locations to wooded areas with optimal soil types, as well as avoiding the main areas of productive agricultural land and protected areas.

Next steps include rapid site assessments using satellite imagery to provide comparative information on prospective sites quickly and at low cost. In-depth assessment of preferred sites and their surroundings can be supported by the following sustainability metrics:

  • Carbon storage estimates & their market value (current and future projected)
  • Biodiversity value (with habitats identified, such as endemic forests)
  • Green and blue corridors, tree cover within fields and vegetation productivity
  • Surface water regulation and flood mitigation opportunities/sources of soil erosion risk
  • Places where nature-based actions (like tree planting) can improve water regulation, benefit biodiversity and reduce soil erosion risk in the local landscape.

These approaches show the value of SENCE to evidence investment decisions and help deliver company sustainability goals.