Do conservation farming practices matter?
In the Mediterranean region, the long-term provision of agro-ecosystem services is threatened by accelerating climate change, unsustainable farming practices, and other pressures. Alternative management practices such as conservation agriculture could be expected to ensure sustainability of ecosystem services from Mediterranean agro-ecosystems. Conservation agriculture is characterized by minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and diversification of crop species. We analyzed the impacts of several forms of alternative agricultural management practices (conservation tillage, cover cropping, mulching, manual weed management, organic fertilizer use, no-irrigation system) on multiple ecosystem services based on 155 published case studies (1994–2015). Overall, alternative agriculture management practices led to more positive than negative effects on ecosystem services in the study region. Stimulating the application of conservation management practices is therefore an important policy option for decision-makers given the vulnerability of ecosystem services in the Mediterranean basin.