Background Field margin and non-crop vegetation in agricultural systems are potential ecosystem services providers because they offer semi-natural habitats for both below and above ground animal groups such as soil organisms, small mammals, birds and arthropods that are service supplying units. They are considered as a target area for enhancing farm biodiversity.
Methodology To explore the multiple potential benefits of these semi-natural habitats and to identify research trends and knowledge gaps globally, a review was carried out following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. A total of 235 publications from the year 2000 to 2016 in the Scopus and Web of Science databases were reviewed.
Results The literature showed an increasing trend in the number of published articles over time with European studies leading in the proportion of studies conducted, followed by North America, Asia, South America, Africa and Australia. Several functional groups of organisms were studied from field margin and non-crop vegetation around agricultural lands including natural enemies (37%), insect pests (22%), birds (17%), pollinators (16%), soil macro fauna (4%) and small mammals (4%). Ecosystem services derived from the field margin included natural pest regulation, pollination, nutrient cycling and reduced offsite erosion. Some field margin plants were reported to host detrimental crop pests, a major ecosystem dis-service, potentially leading to increased pest infestation in the field.
Conclusion The majority of studies revealed the importance of field margin and non-crop vegetation around arable fields in enhancing ecosystem biodiversity. Promotion of field margin plants that selectively enhance the population of beneficial organisms would support sustainable food security rather than simply boosting plant diversity. Our analyses also highlight that agro-ecological studies remain largely overlooked in some regions.
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