Agricultural diversification promotes multiple ecosystem services without compromising yield

Sci Adv. 2020 Nov 4;6(45):eaba1715. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aba1715. Print 2020 Nov.

Abstract

Enhancing biodiversity in cropping systems is suggested to promote ecosystem services, thereby reducing dependency on agronomic inputs while maintaining high crop yields. We assess the impact of several diversification practices in cropping systems on above- and belowground biodiversity and ecosystem services by reviewing 98 meta-analyses and performing a second-order meta-analysis based on 5160 original studies comprising 41,946 comparisons between diversified and simplified practices. Overall, diversification enhances biodiversity, pollination, pest control, nutrient cycling, soil fertility, and water regulation without compromising crop yields. Practices targeting aboveground biodiversity boosted pest control and water regulation, while those targeting belowground biodiversity enhanced nutrient cycling, soil fertility, and water regulation. Most often, diversification practices resulted in win-win support of services and crop yields. Variability in responses and occurrence of trade-offs highlight the context dependency of outcomes. Widespread adoption of diversification practices shows promise to contribute to biodiversity conservation and food security from local to global scales.