A systematic map of ecosystem services assessments around European agroforestry

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Nora Fagerholm, Mario Torralba Viorreta, Paul J. Burgess, Tobias Plieninger

Agroforestry offers proven strategies as an environmentally benign and ecologically sustainable land management practice to promote ecosystem services. In this literature review, we systematically consider the agroforestry and ecosystem services literature with the aim to identify and catalogue the knowledge field and provide the first systematic synthesis of ecosystem services research in relation to European agroforestry. We reviewed 71 scientific publications from studies conducted in farmland and forest ecosystems with various types of agroforestry management. Each publication was systematically characterized and classified by agroforestry practice and research approach in order to provide an insight into the current research state in addressing ecosystem services (including methods, indicators, and approaches). Spatial distribution of the case study sites in Europe was also explored. In addition, typical clusters of similar research approaches were identified.

The results show that ecosystem service assessment of European agroforestry is currently focused on the spatially extensive wood pastures in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Continental agricultural mosaic landscapes. A specific emphasis has been on regulating, supporting, and provisioning services, such as provision of habitat and biodiversity, food, climate regulation, fibre, and fuel, and the consideration of cultural services has been largely limited to aesthetic value. There is a bias to biophysical and monetary research approaches. The majority of the studies focus on quantitative methods and biophysical field measurements addressing the assessment of only one or two services. Monetary approaches have been applied in less than one fifth of the studies but form a distinctive group.

Our results highlight gaps and biases in the ecosystem service research agenda within agroforestry based on which we conclude that research should aim to diversify from the biophysical and monetary approaches, towards a wider variety of approaches, especially socio-cultural, and a wider coverage of ecosystem services. Stronger consideration of stakeholder participation and introduction of spatially explicit mapping are also important key actions. We make suggestions to advance the promise of ecosystem services provision from European agroforestry in decision making including various actors, stakeholders, and institutions, with strong links to policy processes, such as the EU Biodiversity Strategy and Common Agricultural Policy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Indicators
Pages (from-to)47–65
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ID: 152930563