Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Limitations Of Charcoal As An Effective Carbon Sink

Date:
May 4, 2008
Source:
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Summary:
Fire-derived charcoal is thought to be an important carbon sink. However, a new article in Science shows that charcoal promotes soil microbes and causes a large loss of soil carbon. There has been greatly increasing attention given to the potential of ‘biochar’, or charcoal made from biological tissues (e.g., wood) to serve as a long term sink of carbon in the soil.

Fire-derived charcoal is thought to be an important carbon sink. However, a SLU paper in Science shows that charcoal promotes soil microbes and causes a large loss of soil carbon.

There has been greatly increasing attention given to the potential of ‘biochar’, or charcoal made from biological tissues (e.g., wood) to serve as a long term sink of carbon in the soil. This is because charcoal is carbon-rich and breaks down extremely slowly, persisting in soil for thousands of years. This has led to the suggestion being seriously considered by policy makers worldwide that biochar could be produced in large quantities and stored in soils. This would in turn increase ecosystem carbon sequestration, and thereby counteract human induced increases in carbon-based greenhouse gases and help combat global warming.

However, a new study by Professors David Wardle, Marie-Charlotte Nilsson and Olle Zackrisson at SLU, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Umeε, scheduled to appear in this Friday’s issue of the prestigious journal Science, suggests that these supposed benefits of biochar may be somewhat overstated. In their study, charcoal was prepared and mixed with forest soil, and left in the soil in each of three contrasting forest stands in northern Sweden for ten years.

They found that when charcoal was mixed into humus, there was a substantial increase in soil microorganisms (bacteria and fungi). These microbes carry out decomposition of organic matter (carbon) in the soil, and consistent with this, they found that charcoal caused greatly increased losses of native soil organic matter, and soil carbon, for each of the three forest stands. Much of this lost soil carbon would be released as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Therefore, while it is true that charcoal represents a long term sink of carbon because of its persistence, this effect is at least partially offset by the capacity of charcoal to greatly promote the loss of that carbon already present in the soil.

The study finds that the supposed benefits of biochar in increasing ecosystem carbon storage may be overstated, at least for boreal forest soils. The effect of biochar on the loss of carbon already in the soil needs to be better understood before it can be effectively applied as a tool to mitigate human-induced increases in carbon-based greenhouse gases.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. "Limitations Of Charcoal As An Effective Carbon Sink." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080501180247.htm>.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. (2008, May 4). Limitations Of Charcoal As An Effective Carbon Sink. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080501180247.htm
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. "Limitations Of Charcoal As An Effective Carbon Sink." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080501180247.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

AFP (Oct. 2, 2014) — The turtles and Dolphins of Pakistan's Indus river - both protected by law - are in a fight for their survival as man's activities threatens their futures. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Harvest Break' Endures in Maine Potato Fields

'Harvest Break' Endures in Maine Potato Fields

AP (Oct. 2, 2014) — Educators and farmers are clinging to a tradition aimed at giving farmers much-needed help in getting potatoes out of the fields and into storage before the ground freezes in the nation's northeast corner. (Oct. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Attacking Superbugs

Attacking Superbugs

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) — Two weapons hospitals can use to attack superbugs. Scientists in Ireland created a new gel resistant to superbugs, and a robot that can disinfect a room in minutes. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins