Potential adoption of agroforestry riparian buffers based on landowner and streamside characteristics
Riparian forest buffers provide numerous environmental benefits, yet obstacles to landowner adoption are many. One barrier is the perception that riparian forest buffers are used for conservation at the expense of production. We present a study that focused on why landowners are more or less inclined to adopt native fruit and nut tree agroforestry riparian buffers that achieve both. We surveyed owners of nonforested streamsides in three Virginia watersheds and grouped survey respondents into three segments: (1) stream-source livestock producers, (2) alternative-source livestock producers, and (3) nonproducers. We also measured the importance owners place on management outcomes, their beliefs about riparian forest buffer effectiveness, and their reaction to potential benefits associated with using native fruit and nut tree agroforestry systems. We then tested whether these variables differ among streamside owner segments. Differences were observed in importance of land use outcomes, riparian buffer beliefs, and responses to potential benefits of native fruit and nut tree systems. A geographic information system was used to study streamside characteristics, which varied across owner segments in total potential planting space but differed more so in the total amount of erodible soil that could be conserved through the use of native fruit and nut tree buffers. Results suggest that conservation programs focused on native agroforestry systems would benefit by prioritizing and tailoring initiatives according to social and biophysical variables.