Managing soil carbon for climate change mitigation and adaptation in Mediterranean cropping systems: A meta-analysis
Mediterranean croplands are seasonally dry agroecosystems with low soil organic carbon (SOC) content and high risk of land degradation and desertification. The increase in SOC is of special interest in these systems, as it can help to build resilience for climate change adaptation while contributing to mitigate global warming through the sequestration of atmospheric carbon (C).
We compared SOC change and C sequestration under a number of recommended management practices (RMPs) with neighboring conventional plots under Mediterranean climate (174 data sets from 79 references).
The highest response in C sequestration was achieved by those practices applying largest amounts of C inputs (land treatment and organic amendments). Conservation tillage practices (no-tillage and reduced tillage) induced lower effect sizes but significantly promoted C sequestration, whereas no effect and negative net sequestration rates were observed for slurry applications and unfertilized treatments, respectively. Practices combining external organic amendments with cover crops or conservation tillage (combined management practices and organic management) showed very good performance in C sequestration. We studied separately the changes in SOC under organic management, with 80 data sets from 30 references.
The results also suggest that the degree of intensification in C input rate is the main driver behind the relative C accumulation in organic treatments. Thus, highest net C sequestration rates were observed in most eco-intensive groups, such as “irrigated”, “horticulture” and controlled experiments (“plot scale”).