Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment (AGR ECOSYST ENVIRON )

Publisher: Elsevier


Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment deals with the interface between agriculture and the environment. Preference is given to papers that develop and apply interdisciplinarity, bridge scientific disciplines, integrate scientific analyses derived from different perspectives of agroecosystem sustainability, and are put in as wide an international or comparative context as possible. It is addressed to scientists in agriculture, food production, agroforestry, ecology, environment, earth and resource management, and administrators and policy-makers in these fields. The journal regularly covers topics such as: ecology of agricultural production methods; influence of agricultural production methods on the environment, including soil, water and air quality, and use of energy and non-renewable resources; agroecosystem management, functioning, health, and complexity, including agro-biodiversity and response of multi-species ecosystems to environmental stress; the effect of pollutants on agriculture; agro-landscape values and changes, landscape indicators and sustainable land use; farming system changes and dynamics; integrated pest management and crop protection; and problems of agroecosystems from a biological, physical, economic, and socio-cultural standpoint. Types of papers The Journal publishes original scientific papers, short communications, review articles, book reviews, special issues containing selected and edited papers dealing with a specific theme or based on a conference or workshop, and occasional editorials and commentaries at the discretion of the Editors-in-Chief. A section of this journal is now published as the companion journal Applied Soil Ecology.

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    Agriculture, ecosystems & environment, Agriculture, ecosystems, and environment
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Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Pollination services are economically important component of agricultural biodiversity which enhance the yield and quality of many crops. An understanding of the suitability of extant habitats for pollinating species is crucial for planning management actions to protect and manage these service providers. In a highly modified agricultural ecosystem, we tested the effect of different pollination treatments (open, autonomous self- and wind-pollination) on pod set, seed set, and seed weight in field beans (Vicia faba). We also investigated the effect of semi-natural habitats and flower abundance on pollinators of field beans. Pollinator sampling was undertaken in ten field bean fields along a gradient of habitat complexity; CORINE land cover classification was used to analyse the land use patterns between 500–3000 m around the sites. Total yield from open-pollination increased by 185% compared to autonomous self-pollination. There was positive interactive effect of local flower abundance and cover of semi-natural habitats on overall abundance of pollinators at 1500 and 2000 m, and abundance of bumblebees (Bombus spp.) at 1000–2000 m. In contrast, species richness of pollinators was only correlated with flower abundance and not with semi-natural habitats. We did not find a link between pod set from open-pollination and pollinator abundance, possibly due to variations in the growing conditions and pollinator communities between sites. We conclude that insect pollination is essential for optimal bean yields and therefore the maintenance of semi-natural habitats in agriculture-dominated landscapes should ensure stable and more efficient pollination services in field beans.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 01/2015; 199:58–66.
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    ABSTRACT: The environmental impacts of livestock production are attracting increasing attention, especially the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Currently, pork is the most widely consumed meat product in the world, and its production is expected to grow in the next few decades. This paper deals with the production of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) by animals and by manure from pig buildings, with a focus on the influence of rearing techniques and nutrition. GHG emissions in piggeries originate from animals through CO2 exhalation and CH4 enteric fermentation, and from manure through the release of CO2, CH4 and N2O. The level of the CO2 exhalation (E-CO2, pig) depends on the physiological stage, the body weight (BW), the production level and the feed intake of the animals concerned. Enteric CH4 (E-CH4, pig) is principally related to dietary fibre intake and the fermentative capacity of the pig’s hindgut. Based on a review of the literature, the following equations are proposed in order to estimate E-CO2, pig (in kg day−1) and E-CH4,pig (in g day−1) for fattening pigs: E-CO2, pig = 0.136 × BW0.573; E-CH4,pig = 0.012 × dRes; with BW (in kg) and dRes for digestible residues (in g day−1). Numerous pathways are responsible for GHG production in manure. In addition, the microbial, physical and chemical properties of manure interact and modulate the level of emissions. Influencing factors for removal systems for both liquid and solid fractions of manure have been investigated. A large range of parameters showing an impact on the level of GHG production from pig houses has been reported. However, few of these can be considered unquestionably as GHG mitigation techniques because some strategies have shown contradictory effects depending on the gas, the circumstances and the study. Nevertheless, frequent manure removal seems to be an efficient means to reduce concurrently CO2-, CH4- and N2O-emissions from pig buildings for both slatted and bedded floor systems. Manure removal operations may be associated with specific storage conditions and efficient treatment in order to further reduce emissions. Several feeding strategies have been tested to decrease GHG emissions but they seem to be ineffective in reducing emissions both significantly and durably. In general, good management practices that enhance zootechnical performance will have beneficial consequences on GHG emission intensity. Taking into account the results described in the literature regarding CO2-, CH4- and N2O-production from animals and manure in pig houses, we estimate total GHG emissions to 448.3 kg CO2equiv. per slaughter pig produced or 4.87 kg CO2equiv. per kg carcass. The fattening period accounts for more than 70% of total emissions, while the gestation, lactation and weaning periods each contribute to about 10% of total emissions. Emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O contribute to 81, 17 and 2% of total emissions from pig buildings, representing 3.87, 0.83 and 0.11 kg CO2equiv. per kg carcass, respectively.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 01/2015; 199:10–25.
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    ABSTRACT: Nitrate leaching has become a public issue worldwide, but little concern has been given to the intensive crop production system of the Guanzhong Plain in Shaanxi province of China, where excessive N would typically be applied coupled with high summer precipitation. The objectives of this study were to quantify the amount of nitrate leaching losses in croplands under conventional farmer practices and determine the characteristics of nitrate leaching as affected by water input and N fertilization. A consecutive 5-year lysimeter field experiment was conducted with a control (CK), conventional farmer N fertilization (CF-N) and optimum N fertilization (OPT-N) treatments. The results indicated that nitrate leaching mainly occurred after irrigation as well as after concentrated rainfalls in July–September, and varied noticeably between individual years. The annual nitrate leaching losses (ANLL) averaged 2.5(±2.0) kg N hm−2 y−1 for the control, 15.8(±5.6) kg N hm−2 y−1 for the CF-N treatment, and 10.1(±5.6) kg N hm−2 y−1 for the OPT-N treatment, respectively. The annual nitrate leaching factors (ANLF) averaged 2.82(±1.03)% for the CF-N treatment and 2.30(±1.61)% for the OPT-N treatment. In addition, both ANLL and ANLF showed weak correlations with annual rainfall, annual irrigation and even the sum of them. Actually, the ANLL and ANLF were just significantly correlated with the total water input in the months in which nitrate leaching occurred (P < 0.05), being only a small proportion of the annual total water input. Traditional N fertilization greatly exceeded the crop N uptake and inevitably resulted in massive nitrate leaching losses and low value of nitrogen (N) fertilizer use efficiency. In conclusion, optimal N fertilization management contributes to relatively high N use efficiency and reduced nitrate leaching loss, while maintaining high crop yields in this intensive wheat–maize production system.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 01/2015; 199:34–42.
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the processes that influence tree species composition in agricultural landscapes is essential for conservation of tropical biodiversity outside of protected areas. We analyzed the effects of landscape composition (amount of surrounding forest cover) and farm management (conventional vs. organic) on the diversity and structure of woody plant species assemblages in Costa Rican coffee agroforestry systems. We utilized information from a GIS land-use database, surveys of 1-ha plots located in 14 coffee farms and 4 forest fragments, and farmer interviews on management practices. The coffee farms harbored over 100 tree species, including 19% of the native tree species found in the surrounding forests. The majority of tree species on the farms were native (82%) to the study area and originated from natural regeneration (73%). Among the tree species that regenerated naturally, 71% were dispersed by animals. On the other hand more than half of the individuals were non-natives (55%) and originated from planting, which resulted in low species similarity between farms and forests and a low density for most native species on the farms. Forest cover within a 1000 m radius around the farms varied between 4 and 38%. Increasing forest cover around the farms had a significant, positive effect on species richness; especially on tree species dispersed by animals, and on species similarity between farms and forests. This suggests that the connection to natural forests increases seed dispersal into adjacent farms. The number of regenerated species was higher on the organic farms, but tree species richness was not affected by management type. Although species assemblages on the coffee farms are strongly determined by natural regeneration, the number of individuals contributed by these processes is low. Tree species conservation in agricultural landscapes would greatly benefit from protecting remnant forests, from facilitating natural regeneration processes and promoting native trees on farms, with particular attention to rare species.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 01/2015; 199:43–51.
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    ABSTRACT: Thousands of Tundra Swans visit winter-flooded paddy fields in the study area, Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture, Japan every year for overwintering from November to March. Since 2004, they have roosted in the paddy fields during the night and foraged in the paddy and surrounding fields during the day, coinciding with the time when farmers began using winter-flooded paddy fields. Before 2004, the swans visited the area for foraging during the day and roosted at nearby lakes, wetlands, and sandbars along rivers during the night. When the swans visited our target paddy fields, the water gradually became green and began to emit an ammonia-like odor. In this study, we investigated the changes in the water qualities of winter-flooded paddy fields and the influence of bird excrement on water quality in the paddy fields during winter, and then estimated the amounts of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) provided by bird droppings to the paddy fields. The mean concentrations of N, P, suspended sediment, and total organic carbon were higher in the overwintering season than during the irrigation season. This trend was observed in both the first and second seasons of the study. The spatial distribution of electric conductivity (EC) measured using a GEM-2 broad-band electromagnetic sensor coincided with that of the matted sites of Tundra Swans in the paddy field, which indicated that the excrement of the swans affected the EC distribution. The total input amounts of N and P from the birds’ excrement to the flooded paddy fields were estimated using a simple model that considered bird counts and probable nutrient content of feces, and the amounts were found to be equivalent to approximately 30% of those present in the standard fertilizers used for rice during the irrigation period. These results suggested that the excrement from the swans markedly influences the water qualities of winter-flooded paddy fields. Keywords: rice paddy, bird, excrement, nitrogen, phosphorus, eutrophication
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 01/2015; 199:1-9.
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    ABSTRACT: Temperate pastures in the Northeast USA are highly productive and could act as significant sinks for soil organic carbon (SOC). However, soils under mature pastures are often considered to have reached equilibrium such that no further sequestration of SOC is expected. This study quantified changes in pasture SOC over nine years using micrometeorological (eddy covariance) measurements of net changes in ecosystem C and direct measurements of changes in SOC (soil cores). Eddy covariance estimates of C flux were made both with and without corrections for sensor self-heating. Change in SOC as measured by the soil core method was non-significant for the Low-N pasture (19 ± 105 g C m−2 yr−1, P = 0.89). However, a significant loss of −504 ± 91 g C m−2 yr−1 (P = 0.01) occurred for the High-N pasture with the amount lost increasing with depth in the soil profile. Eddy covariance measurements without the self-heating correction differed only slightly between pastures with a net flux of −9 and −20 g C m−2 yr−1 for the Low- and High-N pastures, respectively. Applying the sensor self-heating correction to the eddy covariance data increased the estimated loss of ecosystem C by 94 g m−2 yr−1 for the Low-N and 102 g m−2 yr−1 for the High-N pasture. Both soil cores and eddy covariance suggest that the Low-N pasture was C neutral over the nine years of the study. A large amount of C was lost from deep in the soil profile from the High-N pasture which could not be explained by fluxes measured with the eddy covariance system. Comparison of eddy covariance and soil core data was not useful for determining the appropriateness of using the sensor self-heating correction at this location.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 01/2015; 199:52–57.
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    ABSTRACT: Orchards are typical landscape features with a long history in traditional agricultural landscape management. They are situated from lowlands to mountains, mostly in upland areas, where natural conditions are favorable for fruit tree cultivation. Traditional orchard landscape that represents one class of traditional agricultural landscape (TAL) in Slovakia is created by mosaics of arable-land, grasslands and orchards and provides evidence of former small-scale farming in Slovakia. They are areas with irreplaceable ecological, landscape-aesthetic, social, cultural, historical and production values, and it is imperative that they are preserved for future generations as a memorial of the past. The aim of this research is to investigate distribution of traditional orchard landscapes in Slovakia and to evaluate their current state, the threats they face and their importance in biodiversity conservation and protection in traditionally cultivated farmland. Biodiversity assessment showed that forms of anthropogenic relief (balks) are islands of increased plant species richness with a mixture of species from surrounding grasslands, arable fields and orchards. Although traditional orchard landscapes are decreasing and their plots are threatened by abandonment or intensification, almost half are still regularly managed. Parts of abandoned traditional orchard landscape plots have already been changed to recreational landscape overgrown with shrubs and trees. Nevertheless, in order to preserve traditional orchard landscape structure and their scenery for future generations, we must institute new instruments to preserve traditional orchard landscape and its biodiversity.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 01/2015; 199:67–76.
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    ABSTRACT: The effects of ambient ozone (O3) on wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) varieties HUW 510 and LOK-1 were studied at recommended and 1.5 times recommended NPK under natural field conditions using open top chambers under varying NPK levels. Ambient O3 was filtered out from air through charcoal filters for control plants (FCs), while non-filtered chambers received ambient O3 (NFCs). Twelve hourly mean concentrations of O3 varied from 10.3 to 110 ppb. Plants growing in FCs showed better growth performance and higher biomass accumulation compared to those in NFCs at both NPK levels. There were improvements in yield and its quality parameters in FCs compared to NFCs at both NPK levels with no significant difference in yield between FCs and NFCs at 1.5 times recommended NPK in LOK-1 and at RNPK in HUW 510. Nitrogen utilization efficiency increased in NFCs compared to FCs in both the varieties, but lower capability of N acquisition under ambient O3 led to higher magnitude of reduction in yield of LOK-1 compared to HUW 510 at recommended NPK. The results clearly showed that 1.5 times recommended NPK alleviated the negative effects of ambient O3 pollutant in LOK-1 variety whereas recommended NPK in HUW 510.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 01/2015; 199:26–33.
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    ABSTRACT: Ammonia emission from urea application negatively affects both environmental quality and human health, and so it is desirable to minimize nitrogen loss by ammonia volatilization and to improve nitrogen use efficiency. This field study aimed to assess the effects of recently introduced urease (N-(2- nitrophenyl) phosphoric triamide, 2-NPT) and nitrification inhibitors (mixture of dicyandiamide and 1H- 1,2,4-triazol) on NH3 emissions following urea application as compared to calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) in Northern Germany. The measurements were carried out in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) in the years 2011–2013 covering in total 12 urea application dates. Urea was applied as unamended granulated urea, or combined with urease or nitrification inhibitor or with both inhibitors. Fertilizers were applied in multi-plot field trials with four replications and ammonia losses were measured simultaneously by a combination of a calibrated dynamic chamber and passive samplers. Application date strongly affected relative NH3 loss (% of applied N) due to seasonal variation of soil moisture, temperature, and rainfall. Initial soil moisture showed a strong effect on NH3 emission. Averaged over the three vegetation periods, relative NH3 losses from unamended urea amounted to 8%, with mean emissions of 5%, 4%, and 17% for split N applications in March, April, and early June, respectively. Compared with treatment without urease inhibitor, the urease inhibitor addition reduced emissions by 26–83%, resulting in emissions similar to that from CAN. Analyzing the total data set, no significant effect of the nitrification inhibitor on NH3 emission was observed while at specific applications significantly higher as well as lower emissions compared to unamended urea were detected. The results highlight that NH3 emissions after field application of urea are highly variable under north German climate conditions and simple emission factors should be reevaluated. Urease inhibitor and appropriate application timing are effective measures to reduce NH3 emission from field applied urea.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 12/2014; 197:184-194.
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    ABSTRACT: In the last century, most peatlands were reclaimed for agricultural purposes, which led to peat degradation and to severe subsidence, and thus too wet conditions for crops. In some areas this has therefore led to wide agricultural abandonment. However, studies on the effect of agricultural abandonment as a potential restoration tool are lacking. In this study, the effectiveness and the restoration potential of agricultural abandonment in reducing peat degradation and in improving soil microbial biodiversity were evaluated. The main chemical parameters, arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal diversity and soil respiration partitioning were used to assess the long-term effect of 15 years of agricultural abandonment (Aband) in a Mediterranean reclaimed peatland. An intensive maize cultivation (Cult) in the same area was used as a comparison. Multivariate analyses showed that 15 years of agricultural abandonment: did not affect the main soil chemical parameters, except for NH4+ which was lower in the Aband than in the Cult; increased AM fungal root colonization and the diversity in terms of number of families of AM fungi retrieved in roots, but decreased soil AM fungal richness; reduced total soil respiration and its autotrophic component but increased respiration by heterotrophs; determined a lower fluctuation of soil CO2 flux response to air temperature than the Cult. Thus, although some soil quality parameters were significantly improved, 15 years of agricultural abandonment may not lead to an effective restoration. Consequently, alternative and sustainable solutions for their protection and preservation need to be developed.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 09/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We assessed the pollinator community of two cultivars of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum, Duke and Bluecrop), and determined the importance of different pollinators to overall crop yield by measuring pollination deficits. The importance of distance to putative wild pollinator habitat (natural field edges) for pollinator abundance within fields and crop yield was also considered. Managed honey bees made 70% of flower visits (85% to Duke, 49% to Bluecrop). Wild bumble bees made half of the visits to Bluecrop. Though bumble bees were observed less frequently as distance from the natural edge increased, there was no effect of distance on levels of crop pollination. Pollination deficits were less pronounced in Duke than Bluecrop, with maximum (hand) pollination leading to a 12% (Duke) to 23% (Bluecrop) increase in yield. Exclusion of pollinators reduced yield by 50–80% compared to ambient pollination. For both cultivars, pollination deficits declined most strongly with either increasing bumble bee visits or increasing total visits (honey bees and bumble bees combined), and in no case were deficit levels significantly reduced by honey bees alone. This study supports a growing body of literature that suggests managed honey bees alone cannot reduce deficits, and that wild pollinators are needed to maximize yields in pollinator-dependent agricultural systems.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 08/2014; 197:255–263.

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