Common research design and data management enabled interdisciplinary synthesis on agroforestry systems (BonaRes-SIGNAL)

Success Story Highlights
  • The SIGNAL project worked on common plots and coordinated data collection from the start.

  • This paid out by data that could be combined to see overall ecosystem patterns.

  • Data quality and openness contributed to highranking publication.

Detailed Story Description

The SIGNAL project set out to investigate whether agroforestry would provide equal or even enhanced ecosystem functions compared to regular crops and grasslands without the trees present. An interdisciplinary effort used more than 45 indicators in cropland and more than 15 indicators in grassland, coming from disciplines such as soil science, meteorology or genetics in plant pathogens.

In order to be able to conduct a meta-analysis across these diverse datasets, a common plot design was used for all groups and similar sampling times were coordinated over several years. The values could then be standardized for overall evaluation. Through this kind of data exploration, Marcus and his colleagues were able to identify key features where agroforestry with crops had advantages over field with crops only, namely: carbon sequestration, functioning as a biological habitat and resistance to erosion.

All data that flowed into the analysis was published with the BonaRes Repository, which also hosts a published map of the field sites used within the project. His positive experience of analysis and data handling in a structured way led Marcus to become part of the team at the BonaRes Repository and later made him join the FAIRagro project, where he coordinates the Help Desk on research data management.



Marcus Schmidt in a blooming agroforestry system


Marcus Schmidt



Landscape ecology, forest and agricultural ecosystems, data analysis, research data management

Success Story references
  • Veldkamp, E., Schmidt, M., Markwitz, C. et al. Multifunctionality of temperate alley-cropping agroforestry outperforms open cropland and grassland. Commun Earth Environ 4, 20 (2023). DOI
  • Marcus Schmidt, Anita Swieter, Maren Langhof, Diana Seserman, Rüdiger Graß, Christine Wachendorf, Xenia Bischel (2017). BonaRes SIGNAL, sites, measuring points, Dataset, BonaRes Repository, DOI
  • FAIRagro Helpdesk, run by the Data Steward Service Center