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Forest and grassland cover types reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils

Science of the Total Environment


Western Canada's prairie region is extensively cultivated for agricultural production, which is a large source of greenhouse gas emissions. Agroforestry systems are common land uses across Canada, which integrate trees into the agricultural landscape and could play a substantial role in sequestering carbon and mitigating increases in atmospheric GHG concentrations. We measured soil CO2, CH4 and N2O fluxes and the global warming potential of microbe-mediated net greenhouse gas emissions (GWP(m)) in forest and herbland (areas without trees) soils of three agroforestry systems (hedgerow, shelterbelt and silvopasture) over two growing seasons (May through September in 2013 and 2014). We measured greenhouse gas fluxes and environmental conditions at 36 agroforestry sites (12 sites for each system) located along a south-north oriented soil/climate gradient of increasing moisture availability in central Alberta, Canada. The temperature sensitivity of soil CO2 emissions was greater in herbland (4.4) than in forest (3.1), but was not different among agroforestry systems. Over the two seasons, forest soils had 3.4% greater CO2 emission, 36% higher CH4 uptake, and 66% lower N2O on than adjacent herbland soils. Combining the CO2 equivalents of soil CH4 and N2O fluxes with the CO2 emitted via heterotrophic (microbial) respiration, forest soils had a smaller GWP(m) than herbland soils (68 and 89 kg CO2 ha(-1), respectively). While emissions of total CO2 were silvopasture > hedgerow > shelterbelt, soils under silvopasture had 5% lower heterotrophic respiration, 15% greater CH4 uptake, and 44% lower N2O emission as compared with the other two agroforestry systems. Overall, the GWP(m) of greenhouse gas emissions was greater in hedgerow (88) and shelterbelt (85) than in the silvopasture system (76 kg CO2 ha(-1)). High GWP(m) in the hedgerow and shelterbelt systems reflects the greater contribution from the monoculture annual crops within these systems. Opportunities exist for reducing soil greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change by promoting the establishment of perennial vegetation in the agricultural landscape. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Baah-Acheamfour, M; Carlyle, CN; Lim, SS; Bork, EW; Chang, SX

Journal: Science of the Total Environment

Year: 2016