The multifunctional roles of vegetated strips around and within agricultural fields
Agriculture can have substantial negative impacts on the environment. The establishment and management of vegetated strips adjacent to farmed fields (including various field margins, buffer strips and hedgerows) are commonly advocated mitigation measures for these negative environmental impacts. However, it may be difficult to obtain reliable evidence on the effects of implementation and management of vegetated strips, even though a substantial body of evidence exists. We describe a systematic map of research relating to vegetated strips in boreo-temperate farming systems to answer the question: What evidence exists regarding the effects of field margins on nutrients, pollutants, socioeconomics, biodiversity, and soil retention in boreo-temperate systems?
We searched 13 bibliographic databases, 1 search engine and 37 websites of stakeholder organisations using a predefined and tested search string focusing on a comprehensive list of English language vegetated strip synonyms. Searches in Danish, Finnish, Spanish, and Swedish were also conducted using web searches. We screened search results at title, abstract and full text levels, recording the number of studies deemed non-relevant (with reasons at full text). A systematic map database of meta-data (i.e. descriptive summary information about the settings and methods) for relevant studies was produced following full text assessment. The systematic map database is provided as an evidence atlas: interactive, web-based geographical information system.
Over 31,000 search results were identified, resulting in a total of 1072 relevant primary research studies and 130 evidence reviews. Articles used a variety of terminology to describe vegetated strips, with ‘field margin’, ‘hedgerow’, ‘shelterbelt’ and ‘riparian buffer’ most common. The volume of primary research is increasing linearly year-by-year, whilst the increase in reviews has tailed off in the last 10 years. The USA and UK were most frequently studied and reviewed. Arable systems were investigated in c. 70% of primary research but 50% of reviews. Some 50% of primary research vegetated strips were field edge and 25% riparian, whilst riparian and field edge strips were roughly equally the focus of around a half of all described strips in reviews. Terrestrial biodiversity, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and soil/water loss or retention were the most commonly measured outcomes in primary studies and reviews, although some other outcomes were more common in reviews than research articles (e.g. pesticides).
We identified substantial bodies of evidence on particular sets of related outcomes and ecosystem services, which constitute important knowledge clusters/synthesis gaps relating to: strip width, terrestrial biodiversity, nutrient retention, hydrological regimes, toxic substances, erosion protection, pests, carbon sequestration, and soil and biodiversity combined. We also identified key knowledge gaps relating to: climate regulation, freshwater biodiversity, strip harvesting, cultural ecosystem services, long-term impacts, the relationship between pest populations and crop yield, fuel and fibre production, specific regions and countries (e.g. Russia and South America), and multi-use vegetated strips. This systematic map is an important step in identifying what research has been done to date, and what primary and secondary research is needed as the next step for this topic.
Vegetative strip, Hedgerow, Beetlebank, Riparian buffer, Buffer strip, Filter strip, Buffer, Agri-environment, Agricultural policy, Mitigation, Agricultural pollution, Agricultural management
Agriculture and agricultural intensification can have significant negative impacts on the environment, including nutrient and pesticide leaching, spreading of pathogens, soil erosion and reduction of ecosystem services provided by terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. The establishment and management of vegetated strips adjacent to farmed fields (including various field margins, buffer strips and hedgerows) are key mitigation measures for these negative environmental impacts and environmental managers and other stakeholders must often make decisions about how best to design and implement vegetated strips for a variety of different outcomes. However, it may be difficult to obtain relevant, accurate and summarised information on the effects of implementation and management of vegetated strips, even though a vast body of evidence exists on multipurpose vegetated strip interventions within and around fields. To improve the situation, we describe a method for assembling a database of relevant research relating to vegetated strips undertaken in boreo-temperate farming systems (arable, pasture, horticulture, orchards and viticulture), according to the primary question: What evidence exists regarding the effects of field margins on nutrients, pollutants, socioeconomics, biodiversity, and soil retention?
We will search 13 bibliographic databases, one search engine and 37 websites for stakeholder organisations using a predefined and tested search string that focuses on a comprehensive list of vegetated strip synonyms. Non-English language searches in Danish, Finnish, German, Spanish, and Swedish will also be undertaken using a web-based search engine. We will screen search results at title, abstract and full text levels, recording the number of studies deemed non-relevant (with reasons at full text). A systematic map database that displays the meta-data (i.e. descriptive summary information about settings and methods) of relevant studies will be produced following full text assessment. The systematic map database will be displayed as a web-based geographical information system (GIS). The nature and extent of the evidence base will be discussed.