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Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 92, Issue 4, pp 893–908 | Cite as

Mediterranean cork oak wooded grasslands: synergies and trade-offs between plant diversity, pasture production and soil carbon

  • Giovanna Seddaiu
  • Simonetta Bagella
  • Antonio Pulina
  • Chiara Cappai
  • Lorenzo Salis
  • Ivo Rossetti
  • Roberto Lai
  • Pier Paolo Roggero
Article

Abstract

Mediterranean wooded grasslands that emerge from silvopastoral activities are multifunctional systems that result in high biodiversity and offer ecosystem services such as forage production and soil carbon sequestration. During 3 years, ten grazed wooded grassland fields were studied in the Berchidda–Monti long-term observatory, located in NE Sardinia, Italy, with the aim of exploring the synergies and trade-offs between biodiversity and selected ecosystem services. Positions below and outside the canopy of three cork oak trees in each field were randomly selected to compare seasonal pasture production, pasture utilization rate by animals, botanical composition, biodiversity indicators (Shannon index and plant species richness) and soil organic carbon. In autumn, dry matter production of pasture was similar in the two positions; in two winters out of three it was greater below the trees than outside, and in spring it was greater outside than below the trees. While plant species richness and Shannon index were not significantly influenced by the position, the overall wooded grassland plant species richness was 31% higher than that outside of the tree crown. The soil organic carbon content in the 0–40-cm soil layer was also higher below the trees. Our findings highlight that if the main purpose of the wooded grasslands is to provide forage for grazing animals rather than conserving and/or enhancing plant diversity and soil fertility, the presence of trees constrains the overall forage productivity, although the greater forage availability in winter under the trees can contribute to improve the seasonal distribution of forage production.

Keywords

Biodiversity indicators Ecosystem services Habitat heterogeneity Pastoral value Scattered trees 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The study was carried out through the AGFORWARD project (Grant Agreement No. 613520), co-funded by the EU, Directorate General for Research & Innovation, within the 7th Framework Programme, Theme 2 - Biotechnologies, Agriculture & Food, and the PASCUUM project (L.R. 7/8/07 n. 7, Regione Autonoma Sardegna). The authors are very grateful to Dr. Maria Carmela Caria, from the University of Sassari for her contribution to CCA data analysis.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di AgrariaUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  2. 2.Nucleo Ricerca DesertificazioneUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze della Natura e del TerritorioUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  4. 4.Servizio Ricerca per la ZootecniaAGRIS SardegnaSassariItaly

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