Do European agroforestry systems enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services? A meta-analysis

To upscale existing case-study insights to the European level, it was conducted a meta-analysis on the effects of agroforestry on ecosystem service provision and on biodiversity levels. From 53 publications we extracted a total of 365 comparisons that were selected for the meta-analysis. Results revealed an overall positive effect of agroforestry (effect size = 0.454, p < 0.01) over conventional agriculture and forestry. However, results were heterogeneous, with differences among the types of agroforestry practices and ecosystem services assessed.

Erosion control, biodiversity, and soil fertility are enhanced by agroforestry while there is no clear effect on provisioning services. The effect of agroforestry on biomass production is negative. Comparisons between agroforestry types and reference land-uses showed that both silvopastoral and silvoarable systems increase ecosystem service provision and biodiversity, especially when compared with forestry land.

Mediterranean tree plantation systems should be especially targeted as soil erosion could be highly reduced while soil fertility increased. It was concluded that agroforestry can enhance biodiversity and ecosystem service provision relative to conventional agriculture and forestry in Europe and could be a strategically beneficial land use in rural planning if its inherent complexity is considered in policy measures.

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