Sustainable land management practices as providers of several ecosystem services under rainfed Mediterranean agroecosystems
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Little is known about the multiple impacts of sustainable land management practices on soil and water conservation, carbon sequestration, mitigation of global change and crop yield productivity in semiarid Mediterranean agroecosystems. We hypothesized that a shift from intensive tillage to more conservative tillage management practices (reduced tillage optionally combined with green manure) leads to an improvement in soil structure and quality and will reduce soil erosion and enhance carbon sequestration in semiarid Mediterranean rainfed agroecosystems. To test the hypothesis, we assessed the effects of different tillage treatments (conventional (CT), reduced (RT), reduced tillage combined with green manure (RTG), and no tillage (NT)) on soil structure and soil water content, runoff and erosion control, soil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, crop yield and carbon sequestration in two semiarid agroecosystems with organic rainfed almond (Prunus dulcis Mill) in the Murcia Region (southeast Spain). It was found that reduction and suppression of tillage under almonds led to an increase in soil water content in both agroecosystems. Crop yields ranged from 775 to 1,766 kg ha−1 between tillage treatments, but we did not find a clear relation between soil water content and crop yield. RT and RTG treatments showed lower soil erosion rates and higher crop yields of almonds than under CT treatment. Overall, higher soil organic carbon contents and aggregate stability were observed under RTG treatment than under RT or CT treatment. It is concluded that conversion from CT to RTG is suitable to increase carbon inputs without enhancing soil CO2 emissions in semiarid Mediterranean agroecosystems.
KeywordsAlmond orchards Carbon loss by erosion Carbon sequestration Crop yield Green manure Organic agriculture Runoff Semiarid Soil aggregation Tillage
This research was supported with funds from the Murcia Regional Government (Project: SENECA 08757/PI/08) and Spanish CICYT Project: IMPASEC (AGL201125069). Parts of this research were performed in the framework of the EC-DG RTD- 6th Framework Research Programme (sub-priority 188.8.131.52) - Research on Desertification - project DESIRE (037046): Desertification Mitigation and Remediation of land – a global approach for local solutions. JDV was supported by a ‘Juan de la Cierva’ research grant (JCI-2011-08941) from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. We thank the members of the Soil and Water Conservation Group, who helped us in the laboratory and field work. The State Agency of Meteorology (AEMET) is acknowledged for providing some rainfall data.
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