Soil organic carbon sequestration in temperate agroforestry systems – A meta-analysis (2022)

Mayer S., Wiesmeier M., Sakamoto E., Hübner R., Cardinael R., Kühnel A., Kögel-Knabner I.

Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 323 (), 107689



Soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration by improved agricultural practices is an acclaimed strategy to combat climate change. Nevertheless, the aim of increasing of SOC encounters limitations, e.g. with regards to permanence of carbon storage or leakage effects in food production. Agroforestry systems (AFS) are a promising land use option that is able to sequester substantial amounts of SOC while addressing these challenges. With a focus on temperate climate zones worldwide, available information on SOC in AFS was reviewed to determine their SOC sequestration potential and respective controlling factors. From a total of 61 observations, SOC sequestration rates in soils of AFS were derived for alley cropping systems (n = 25), hedgerows (n = 26) and silvopastoral systems (n = 10). The results showed that AFS have a potential for substantial SOC sequestration in temperate climates. SOC stocks were higher in the topsoil (0–20 cm) than in the control in more than 70% of the observations, and higher within the subsoil (20–40 cm) for 81% of all observations, albeit large variation in the data. The mean SOC sequestration rates were slightly higher at 0–20 cm (0.21 ± 0.79 t ha-1 yr-1) compared to 20–40 cm soil depth (0.15 ± 0.26 t ha-1 yr-1). Hedgerows revealed highest SOC sequestration rates in topsoils and subsoils (0.32 ± 0.26 and 0.28 ± 0.15 t ha-1 yr-1, respectively), followed by alley cropping systems (0.26 ± 1.15 and 0.23 ± 0.25 t ha-1 yr-1) and silvopastoral systems showing a slight mean SOC loss (−0.17 ± 0.50 and −0.03 ± 0.26 t ha-1 yr-1). Moreover, SOC sequestration rates tended to be higher for AFS with broadleaf tree species compared to coniferous species. We conclude that temperate AFS sequester significant amounts of SOC in topsoils and subsoils and represent one of the most promising agricultural measures for climate change mitigation and adaption.