Multifunctionality of temperate alley-cropping agroforestry outperforms open cropland and grassland
Intensively managed open croplands are highly productive but often have deleterious environmental impacts. Temperate agroforestry potentially improves ecosystem functions, although comprehensive analysis is lacking. Here, we measured primary data on 47 indicators of seven ecosystem functions in croplands and 16 indicators of four ecosystem functions in grasslands to assess how alley-cropping agroforestry performs compared to open cropland and grassland. Carbon sequestration, habitat for soil biological activity, and wind erosion resistance improved for cropland agroforestry (P ≤ 0.03) whereas only carbon sequestration improved for grassland agroforestry (P < 0.01). In cropland agroforestry, soil nutrient cycling, soil greenhouse gas abatement, and water regulation did not improve, due to customary high fertilization rates. Alley-cropping agroforestry increased multifunctionality, compared to open croplands. To ameliorate the environmental benefits of agroforestry, more efficient use of nutrients is required. Financial incentives should focus on conversion of open croplands to alley-cropping agroforestry and incorporate fertilizer management.