Although previous studies have shown that agroforestry practices have reduced surface runoff loss and leaching of agrochemicals, thereby improving water quality, there is still a lack of a systematic summary of the quantitative estimation of these decreases for key agroforestry practices.
In a recent study published in Plant and Soil, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) reviewed the environmental benefits of agroforestry practices on agrochemical reduction and pollution control.
The researchers synthesized the literature on the efficacy of agroforestry practices worldwide in terms of reducing water, soil, nutrient losses and pesticide transport. They also performed a refined review of the processes driving these ecosystem functions and services to identify unknowns and to explore future research questions.
Moreover, the researchers assessed the water, soil, nutrient, and pesticide losses associated with silvoarable agroforestry, silvopastoral systems, linear tree plantings, riparian and upland buffer strips.
Compared to conventional agricultural systems, in both temperate and tropical regions, agroforestry systems on average reduced runoff, soil, organic carbon, nutrient, and pollutant losses by 58%, 65%, 9%, 49%, and 50%, respectively.
They further found that reduction efficacies of agroforestry practices were site dependent and varied extensively with land uses. Near-surface vegetation, good soil cover, favorable soil conditions, and an extensive root system can optimize the reduction efficacy in agroforestry systems.
“A comprehensive science-based review is needed to generalize agroforestry design and site adaptability for water and soil conservation where climatic, geographical, ecological, and socio-economic conditions are relatively similar in the world”, said Prof. LIU Wenjie, principal investigator of the study.
LIU Wenjie Ph.D Principal Investigator
Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
Agroforestry traits and their potential impact on processes of reductions in water, soil and nutrient losses, and associated water contamination compared to the natural forest and conventional agricultural systems, based on the literature reported in the main text.
(Image by ZHU Xiai)