PASTURE+ Adaptive and resilient pastures: biochar-based agroecology for improving ecosystem services above and belowground


Ana Catarina Bastos


La Caixa INPhINIT Incoming 2023


01/11/2022 - 30/11/2025

Funding for CESAM

115092 €

Total Funding

115092 €

Funding Entity

Fundação La Caixa

Proponent Institution

Universidade de Aveiro

Participating Institutions

  • Associação do Instituto Superior Técnico para a Investigação e o Desenvolvimento (IST-ID)
  • Harper-Adams University, Reino Unido

Context: Increasing pressures from intensive land management and climate change threaten the capacity of Mediterranean pastoral systems to maintain productivity for livestock, while supporting other key ecosystem services. Amending agricultural soils with biochar (carbon-based product of biomass pyrolysis) showed potential increases in crop yield via improved soil structure, water, nutrient and carbon dynamics. In pastoral soils, such potential benefits remain unexplored when integrated with other agroecological approaches. Such a management combination can potentially represent a win-win scenario for pastures, towards simultaneously securing productivity, livestock nutrition as well as overall ecosystem health and resilience to global climate change.

Aim: PASTURE+ uses an innovative and interdisciplinary approach at pot and field scales, aimed at sustainably improving soil-plant-biota interactions in a Mediterranean sown pasture. We hypothesize that biochar-based agroecology enhances: i) aboveground productivity, diversity and nutritional value; ii) ecosystem services linked to habitat provision, water and carbon storage; and iii) overall resilience to climatic threats. Possible management combinations to be tested include: sown biodiverse vs natural pastures, irrigation vs no irrigation, open areas vs agroforestry, biochar vs no biochar, rotational grazing.

Strategic relevance: PASTURE+ relies on interdisciplinary collaborations within four of CESAM’s research groups (RG), as well as with Harper-Adams University (HAU, UK) and the award-winning Portuguese company Terraprima, integrating ecosystem management/engineering, soil science, agroecology and life cycle assessment. It is thus, directly aligned with CESAM’s strategic mission of supporting ecosystem functioning/resilience under the UN’s sustainable development goals. Specifically, it contributes to the targets of RG SES towards the assessment, management, conservation and restoration of soil/natural resources.