A free email agroforestry journal for practitioners, extension agents, researchers, professionals, students, and enthusiasts. One edition is sent each month focusing on a concept related to designing, developing, and learning more about trees and agroforestry systems. Focuses on trees and their roles in agriculture, natural ecosystems, human culture and economy.

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Overstory #156 - Permaculture Principles


Permaculture principles are brief statements or slogans that can be remembered as a checklist when considering the complex options for design and evolution of ecological support systems. These principles can be seen as universal, although the methods that express them will vary greatly according to place and situation. Fundamentally, permaculture design principles arise from a way of perceiving the world that is often described as 'systems thinking' and 'design thinking.'

Principle 1: Observe and interact

Good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship between nature and people, in which careful observation and thoughtful interaction provide the design inspiration, repertoire and patterns. It is not something that is generated in isolation, but through continuous and reciprocal interaction with the subject.

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Overstory #155 - Mycoforestry


Without fungi, there are no forests. Mycoforestry is the use of fungi to sustain forest communities. Mycoforestry can be used to help accomplish the following goals:

  • preservation of native forests
  • recovery and recycling of woodland debris
  • enhancement of replanted trees
  • strengthening sustainability of ecosystem
  • economic diversity

Nutrient cycling

Mushrooms contribute phosphorus and confer other ecological benefits to the riparian and forest ecosystems. Mushrooms become launching platforms for explosive growth of bacterial populations, many of which are critical for plant health. Mushrooms have a preselecting influence on the bacteria sharing their habitat (Tornberg et al. 2003). Bacteria beneficial to trees regulate inputs and outputs of nitrogen and are phosphorus limited (Sundareshwar et al. 2003). Mycelium absorbs phosphorus from its surroundings, moving these mineral salts over distances, and later releases this mineral when mushrooms rot or the mycelium dies. Fungal-decomposing bacteria then absorb the phosphorus. As the mushrooms rot, the ecosystem benefits from this cycling of essential minerals in which the bacteria allow phosphorus, zinc, potassium, and other minerals to be redeposited back into the nutritional bank.

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Overstory #154 - Agroforester's Library (revised and updated)

Thank you for visiting The Overstory journal.

This page is merely a placeholder in the journal's numbered sequence for a previously published edition, informing subscribers of updated reference links and changes in the Agroforester's Library.

Please visit the Agroforester's Library consisting of recommended books, periodicals, species references and other links one may find useful in the agroforestry field.

Overstory #151 - Risk Management for Farm Forestry: Tips for farmers


Plantations are variously susceptible to such risks as drought, pestilence, vermin, disease, fire, flood and wind as well as poor management and neglect. Even if they are well managed and grow well there are still market risks. Fortunately, farmers are well placed to minimise risk by reducing costs and carefully designing their forests so as to capture multiple benefits. Good design can provide real benefits in the short-term which make waiting for the trees to mature much more enjoyable and far less risky. Below are some of the ways farmers can 'insure' against risk associated with growing trees for timber - while saving on the premiums.

Network: Increase your knowledge

Develop and maintain knowledge about farm forestry in your area including the available markets. Learning from others allows you to adapt their experience to suit your own circumstances and ensures that you have a clear vision of what you are trying to produce. It also provides the opportunity to avoid making the same mistakes yourself.

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Overstory #150 - Forest and tree symbolism in folklore

Symbolic meanings acquired by trees and forests through centuries of human existence remain in language, lore and culture.


Trees and forests, probably because of their great size and sometimes longevity, vividly affected the imagination of preliterate societies. They were alive like human beings and animals, but did not move from place to place; like mountains and stones they seemed immobile, but at the same time could change and sway. Dense forests may have seemed mysterious. Even lone trees, particularly in a barren spot, may have appeared miraculous if they provided food for a starving wanderer. Trees were seen and touched by the earliest humans; utilized for food, fuel, shelter, clothing, fences and barriers, lances and spears; and burned, cut or transformed into numerous objects. Their shadows provided cover, camouflage and hiding places for persons on either side of the law. Over time, forests and individual species of trees have come to represent different concepts in the imaginations of populations living in various geographical locations. Whether trees were numerous or scarce in a given locality influenced how they were perceived and dealt with in legends, mythologies and cultures.

This article touches on some of the symbolic meanings acquired by trees and forests through the centuries of human existence. It is intended as a general exploration of a vast subject – a toe in the water, or more aptly, sending out roots – and does not pretend to be comprehensive, historically or geographically.

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Overstory #149 - Live Fences, Isolated Trees, and Windbreaks: Tools for Conserving Biodiversity

This article is excerpted from the original. See "Original Source" below for a full citation.


At first glance, many deforested tropical landscapes appear to be simple mosaics of forest patches, interspersed with pastures and crop fields. However, closer examination reveals that many of the agricultural areas retain abundant and conspicuous tree cover, whether as individual isolated trees, live fences, windbreaks, or clusters of trees. Some of these trees are relicts of the original forest that were left standing when the area was cleared; others have regenerated naturally or been planted by farmers. Often, the isolated trees, live fences, and windbreaks form part of agroforestry systems that the farmers manage to obtain a wide array of goods and services. Although this on-farm tree cover is often overlooked or ignored in surveys of land use (FAO 2000; Kleinn 2000), analyses of forest fragmentation patterns, and conservation efforts, it may be critical to maintaining biodiversity in the fragmented landscapes that characterize many tropical regions (Guevara et al. 1998; Gascon et al. 1999; Harvey et al. 2000).

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