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Sensitivity to information upscaling of agro-ecological assessments: Application to soil organic carbon management


  • Bechini, Luca
  • Castoldi, Nicola
  • Stein, Alfred


Upscaling of agro-ecological indicators applied in regional analyses is sensitive to scale issues of the input data. This study develops a methodology to quantify this sensitivity for an indicator of soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics at the farming system level. A reference case consists of seven fully described farms in northern Italy. Both upscaling in complexity by substituting measured input with estimated input and upscaling in space by extending the methods to farms not included in the reference case are addressed. The indicator increased with 3-107% at four farms after substituting measured management input with that estimated by an expert, whereas it remained unchanged or decreased at the other three farms. Taking the modal value from a cluster of pedological input did not lead to additional uncertainty in most cases, and only slightly increased it in others. We evaluated spatial upscaling by including 733 farms divided in 18 clusters that were described with less information as compared to the reference farms. Within each cluster, we observed relevant variability of the indicator (coefficients of variation of 12-43%), as a consequence of the heterogeneity of farms comprised in each cluster. In each cluster we calculated the indicator for one virtual farm, defined by using modal values for basic farm inputs. In this case the indicator was highly correlated (R2Â =Â 0.98) with the average of the values obtained using measured basic farm inputs. We conclude that upscaling in complexity and space introduces uncertainty in the values of the indicator compared to the reference case. The extent of such differences depends on the variability of the systems under analysis and on indicator sensitivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Bechini, Luca & Castoldi, Nicola & Stein, Alfred, 2011. "Sensitivity to information upscaling of agro-ecological assessments: Application to soil organic carbon management," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(6), pages 480-490, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:104:y:2011:i:6:p:480-490

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