Positive but variable effects of crop diversification on biodiversity and ecosystem services

Damien Beillouin*, Tamara Ben-Ari, Eric Malézieux, Verena Seufert, David Makowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Ecological theory suggests that biodiversity has a positive and stabilizing effect on the delivery of ecosystem services. Yet, the impacts of increasing the diversity of cultivated crop species or varieties in agroecosystems are still under scrutiny. The available empirical evidence is scattered in scope, agronomic and geographic contexts, and impacts on ecosystem services may depend on the type of diversification strategy used. To robustly assess the effects of crop diversification in agroecosystems, we compiled the results of 95 meta-analyses integrating 5156 experiments conducted over 84 experimental years and representing more than 54,500 paired observations on 120 crop species in 85 countries. Overall, our synthesis of experimental data from across the globe shows that crop diversification enhances not only crop production (median effect +14%) but also the associated biodiversity (+24%, i.e., the biodiversity of non-cultivated plants and animals), and several supporting and regulating ecosystem services including water quality (+51%), pest and disease control (+63%) and soil quality (+11%). However, there was substantial variability in the results for each individual ecosystem service between different diversification strategies such as agroforestry, intercropping, cover crops, crop rotation or variety mixtures. Agroforestry is particularly effective in delivering multiple ecosystem services, that is, water regulation and quality, pest and diseases regulation, associated biodiversity, long-term soil productivity and quality. Variety mixtures, instead, provide the lowest benefits, whereas the other strategies show intermediate results. Our results highlight that while increasing the diversity of cultivated crop species or varieties in agroecosystems represents a very promising strategy for more sustainable land management, contributing to enhanced yields, enhanced biodiversity and ecosystem services, some crop diversification strategies are more effective than others in supporting key ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4697-4710
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume27
Issue number19
Early online date11 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was produced within the framework of the European project ?Diversification through Rotation, Intercropping, Multiple Cropping, Promoted with Actors and value-Chains towards Sustainability? (DiverIMPACTS), funded by the European Commission under Grant Agreement number 727482. It was also supported by the INRAE-CIRAD metaprogram GloFoods and by the Institute of Convergence CLAND (16-CONV-0003). We are grateful to Mathilde Duvallet for her contribution to the database.

Funding Information:
This work was produced within the framework of the European project “Diversification through Rotation, Intercropping, Multiple Cropping, Promoted with Actors and value‐Chains towards Sustainability” (DiverIMPACTS), funded by the European Commission under Grant Agreement number 727482. It was also supported by the INRAE‐CIRAD metaprogram GloFoods and by the Institute of Convergence CLAND (16‐CONV‐0003). We are grateful to Mathilde Duvallet for her contribution to the database.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Copyright:
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • agrobiodiversity
  • agroforestry
  • crop rotation
  • ecosystem services
  • intercropping
  • meta-synthesis
  • research synthesis
  • rotation

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