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Agroforestry carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emission rates in central Alberta, Canada

Cite this dataset

Gross, Cole D.; Bork, Edward W.; Carlyle, Cameron N.; Chang, Scott X. (2022). Agroforestry carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emission rates in central Alberta, Canada [Dataset]. Dryad.


Agroforestry systems (AFS) contribute to carbon (C) sequestration and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural lands. However, previously understudied differences among AFS may underestimate their climate change mitigation potential. In this 3-year field study, we assessed various C stocks and greenhouse gas emissions across two common AFS (hedgerows and shelterbelts) and their component land uses: perennial vegetated areas with and without trees (woodland and grassland, respectively), newly planted saplings in grassland, and adjacent annual cropland in central Alberta, Canada. Between 2018 and 2020 (~April–October), nitrous oxide emissions were 89% lower under perennial vegetation relative to the cropland (0.02 and 0.18 g N m−2 year−1, respectively). In 2020, heterotrophic respiration in the woodland was 53% lower in shelterbelts relative to hedgerows (279 and 600 g C m−2 year−1, respectively). Within the woodland, deadwood C stock was particularly important in hedgerows (35 Mg C ha−1 or 7% of ecosystem C) relative to shelterbelts (2 Mg C ha−1 or < 1% of ecosystem C), and likely affected C cycling differences between the woodland types by enhancing soil labile C and microbial biomass in hedgerows. Deadwood C stock was positively correlated with annual heterotrophic respiration and total (to ~100 cm depth) soil organic C, water-soluble organic C, and microbial biomass C. Total ecosystem C was 1.90–2.55 times greater within the woodland than all other land uses, with 176, 234, 237, and 449 Mg C ha−1 found in the cropland, grassland, planted saplings treatment, and woodland, respectively. Shelterbelt and hedgerow woodlands contained 2.09 and 3.03 times more C, respectively, than adjacent cropland. Our findings emphasize the importance of AFS for fostering C sequestration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and, in particular, retaining hedgerows (legacy woodland) and their associated deadwood across temperate agroecosystems to help mitigate climate change.

Usage notes

The current dataset replaces a previous version and has been modified for clarity and carefully reviewed for accuracy.


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Award: AGGP2‐039

Doctoral Vanier Scholarship

Killam Memorial Graduate Scholarship