Evidence Resources

CEE Evidence Syntheses

What evidence exists for the effectiveness of on-farm conservation land management strategies for preserving ecosystem services in developing countries? A systematic map



An extensive body of evidence in the field of agro-ecology claims to show the positive effects that maintenance of ecosystem services can have on meeting future food demand by making farms more sustainable, productive and resilient, which then contributes to improved nutrition and livelihoods of farmers. However, inconsistent effects have commonly been reported, while empirical evidence to support assumed improvements is largely lacking. Overall, a coherent synthesis and review of the evidence of these claims is largely absent from the literature.


Systematic searches of peer-reviewed research were conducted in bibliographic databases of Web of Science, SCOPUS, AGRICOLA, AGRIS databases and CAB abstracts, and grey literature from Google Scholar, and 32 subject-specific websites. Searches identified 21,147 articles. After screening, 746 studies were included in the final map.


Of the 19 conservation land management practices considered, soil fertilisation (24 %), tillage (23 %), agroforestry (9 %), and water conservation (7 %) were most commonly studied. Ecosystem services most commonly studied were supporting (55 %) and regulating (33 %), particularly carbon sequestration/storage, nutrient cycling and soil/water regulation/supply. Key data gaps identified included the absence of long-term records (with datasets spanning >20 years), studies located in North and Central Africa, research that focuses on smallholder landscapes, and studies that span different scales (regional and landscape levels).


The study employs systematic mapping combined with an online interactive platform that geographically maps results, which allows users to interrogate different aspects of the evidence through a defined database field structure. While studies are not directly comparable, the database of 746 studies brings together a previously fragmented and multidisciplinary literature base, and collectively provides evidence concerning a wide range of conservation land management practices impacting key ecosystem services. The systematic map is easily updatable, and may be extended for additional coding, analysed to assess the quality of studies, or used to inform future systematic reviews.


Agro-ecology, Conservation agriculture, Sustainable intensification, Ecosystem services, In-field assessment, Site-specific management, Land sharing, Evidence-based environmental policy

Who's in the review team?

Jessica P. R. Thorn
Rachel Friedman
David Benz
Kathy J. Willis
Gillian Petrokofsky

At what stage is the review?


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