Services provided by multifunctional agroecosystems: Questions, obstacles and solutions

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3 April 2023

Agroecosystems are facing new challenges in the context of a growing and increasingly interconnected human population, and a paradigm shift is needed to successfully address the many complex questions that these challenges will generate. The transition to providing multiple services within an agroecosystem is a starting point for heightened multifunctionality, however, there is still hesitation among stakeholders about moving towards multi-service systems, largely because of the lack of knowledge linking productivity and multifunctionality. We reason that much of this reticence could be overcome through a better understanding of stakeholder requirements and innovative transdisciplinary research extended in the dimensions of time and space. We assembled experts in France to identify priority research questions for co-constructing projects with stakeholders. We identified 18 key questions, as well as the obstacles that hinder their resolution and propose potential solutions for tackling these obstacles. We illustrate that research into agroecosystem multifunctionality and service production must be a hugely collaborative effort and needs to integrate knowledge from different sectors and communities. Promoting dialogue, standardization and data-sharing would enhance transdisciplinary progress. Biodiversity is highlighted as a key factor to explore and incorporate into modelling approaches, but major advances must be made in the understanding of dynamic changes in the biodiversity-function-service nexus across landscapes. Resolving these research questions will allow us to translate knowledge into decision objectives, identify adaptation and tipping points in agroecosystems and develop social-ecological economic pathways that are adaptive over time.