Trees on farms – agroforestry research at Newcastle University

Since a couple of years, we have been following the establishment of our agroforestry trial plot, Cockle Park (Agriculture Facilities | School of Natural and Environmental Sciences | Newcastle University (, A mixture of tree lines comprising poplar and willow trees (biomass tree crops) and annual crops (bean, wheat), we are using this trial to demonstrate proof of concept for method innovations – helping us to address pressing research questions and closing knowledge and data gaps.

What are some of our questions:

Do trees negatively impact yield?
Do trees buffer livestock from heat stress?
Do trees increase biodiversity?
How do trees grow in farmed land?
Do we want trees on farms?

We do run outreach events to update everyone who is interested in what answers we have found to above questions – so look out for events here:

Presenting at our most recent event – Yorkshire Show: Look forward to seeing you at the next one.

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Agroforestry adoption UK

Policy recommendations

have a look at the most recent outputs from our agroforestry UK project. We have synthesized key findings into a policy brief (thank you @Eleanor Moore for the amazing leadership on this) .

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Highlighting our recent work on agroforestry adoption in the north of England.

Agroforestry – Press Office – Newcastle University (

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Teaching & Training

As a group, we are leading on and contributing to several courses teaching at UG and PG level at Newcastle University. We supervise and offer projects on topics we research on and are happy to help you organise an international student research project for your final dissertation. If you choose one of our key research landscapes for your dissertation project: even better. For links to the key courses we contribute to:

If you are interested in the degree programmes that we contribute at Newcastle University: drop us an email or DM on twitter. @marion_pfeifer.

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Updates from the team

(1) Visitors to the team: Daniel Da Silva is visiting from the Regional University of Blumenau in Brazil. He will work with us and colleagues from the wider research group (Modelling, Evidence and Policy) to do some complex system modelling of forest structure data collected from more than 300 plots across forest regions in Brazil. He will also do some exciting mapping with us. We look forward to sharing the canopy structure maps he will produce through papers and presentations next year.

(2) Field work: Laura has gone and returned from Gabon bringing back with her a ton of mammal images collected by her set of camera traps. She also joined the Agrisys Tanzania field team for the field work inception phase in the Kilombero Valley. She set up some more camera traps to allow us identifying mammal:crop interactions in the landscape, and more importantly provided training in the set-up and use of camera traps to our RAs. Thank you

(3) Our UG students have returned from Peru and will be presenting, today, on their research projects and more importantly on the exciting adventures they had in Peru. This will take place tonight at the great North Museum, Newcastle Upon Tyne (06/12).

(4) The head of the Tropical Landscapes lab has travelled to Ghent to attend Sruthi Moore’s defence of her excellent PhD thesis on ‘potential of terrestrial laser scanning for studying liana : tree interactions’. Whilst there, Marion also gave a seminar talk on the ‘monitoring of natural capital and biodiversity in human-modified tropical landscapes’.

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Four UG students in Peru

Four group members (UG students at NU) recently ventured into the untouched forests of Peru Manu NP to look for jaguars with camera traps, analyse vegetation indicators of disturbance and measure spatial point patterns in fig tree species. Thank you to Royal Geographic Society and NU for funding.

Projects: Lauen Barnes – Herbivores and palms: testing for Janzen-Connell effect’; Jennifer McFarlane ‘Habitat use of Jaguars using camera traps in Cocha Cashu biological station, Peru’, Lydia Crabtree ‘Spatial distribution patterns of strangling figs’; Alexandra Lowe ‘Where the palms are – mapping palms as indicators of previous disturbance’.

Check @laurenabarnes_ for more details. For some snapshots sent across by them, see below.

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Visiting Geography at University of Zurich, Switzerland

Early mornings are dreadful, no matter how often one practices the ‘set alarm at 3:50 am, get up, fall into clothes, fall into cab, try to hold a polite conversation with lovely taxi driver, join the queues at the security lanes,… greedily grab the coffee at the nearest Costa outlet (or whatever these coffee outlets at airports are called).’

However, the flight was great. The sun was shining. The city run like an organised (and I mean very very organised) clock work. And the campus was super pretty. Even better, my hosts at, Hendrik and Felix, just received a cool little new terrestrial Lidar device produced by Leica. Almost tiny, in sleek design: such a beauty

The talk went well, and I used the time to relay my views on where we are and where we need to be when using remote sensing for monitoring towards Aichi Targets and SDGs. Thank you again for inviting me!

To download the talk: click Zurich – Presentation.





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Laura won prestigious award

Our PhD student Laura won the prestigious National Geographic Early Career Grant to support her research on road impacts on amphibians and mammals in rainforests. Congratulations!

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From the field #South_Africa

Funded by the Royal Society, I was travelling to Southern Africa to do measure & map quality of crop and non-crop habitats. Yes, that’s right. I have started to venture beyond the forest/woodland/shrub/savannah edge and into that thing called matrix to try and figure out how the distribution of natural habitats (let’s call it wilderness) AND its quality variation within the landscape builds meaningful (translate to ‘ecosystem service’) relationships with cropland productivity (translate to yield and crop health).

This is a pilot study. And the aim is not to prove these relationships. We know they exist. What we don’t know is how exactly quality of natural habitats co-varies with quality of crop habitats and to what extent this co-variation is driven by natural pest control and pollination links or microclimate.


With support from local collaborator Dr Pieter Olivier (see pictures above), formerly postdoc of the University the Pretoria and now co-director of environmental consultancy M.A.P Scientific Services (, I tested some new sensors (NDVI, thermal) beside taking some old sensors (hemis). The primary idea of this pilot was to develop sampling protocols and ‘automatize’ fieldwork and processing steps for follow-up large scale research projects. But I also tried to identify key patterns and metrics I want to use to characterise co-dependencies between forest and crop ‘health’.








What are the next steps: (1) Process and analyse the data. There are lots of them and the thermal data in particular need some more attention than the others. (2) Generate sampling sheets and protocols and design / adapt sensors used to make them more efficient to use in the field. (3) Upload report and key findings to our websites. (4) Wait for the big grant allowing us to test our big ideas to come through. 🙂

PS: We did see some cool wildlife, too. And some deforestation involving swamp forests presumably for growing crops on the rich black soil underneath. I also now feature a brand new exciting scar,unfortunately not because of wild animals but because of a very silly approach to handling a drone 🙂

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Alexander is still in Costa Rica

Alexander’s work on fungal infection prevalence among amphibians and how it varies (or not) with habitat type and condition is well under way. He has been tracking through remote forests and wetlands in Costa Rica taking skin swabs from tiny and not so tiny frogs.

All it will take now is for him to take the samples back to Newcastle (pending research permits) and analyse them. This will provide him with essential data enabling him to better understand why and where amphibians get infected by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. In the end, we can only manage for this disease, which is believed to contribute to large-scale amphibian decline worldwide, if we understand it.

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