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Geoengineering: A Potential Biochar Application?

by on January 12, 2012

Could biochar potentially be used to fix nutrients to sustain and increase C Storage in thawing – decompositioning soils?

Higher temperature and decompo- sition rates can also increase nutrient availability, which often has a greater effect on plant growth than temperature (Chapin and Shaver 1996). Decomposition of soil C (in- cluding thawed permafrost C) with concomitant nutrient release could actually increase total ecosystem C storage if low C:N soil organic matter is replaced by higher C:N plant biomass (Shaver et al. 2000).  http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/resources/Schuur.pdf

Soil amendment

Biochar can be used as a soil amendment to improve yield, improve water quality, reduce soil emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce nutrient leaching, reduce soil acidity, and reduce irrigation and fertilizer requirements http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported Biochar as a key technology for reaching low carbon dioxide atmospheric concentration targets. The negative emissions that can be produced by Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) has been estimated by the Royal Society to be equivalent to a 50 to 150 ppm decrease in global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Annual net emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide could be reduced by a maximum of 1.8 Pg CO2-C equivalent (CO2-Ce) per year (12% of current anthropogenic CO2-Ce emissions; 1 Pg=1 Gt), and total net emissions over the course of a century by 130 Pg CO2-Ce, without endangering food security, habitat or soil conservation. Wikipedia

Related Nitrous oxide emission reduction in temperate biochar-amended soil (2011) – Climate Change Mitigation from Pyrolysis – Beaulieu and Tank suggest that reductions in nitrous oxide emissions from stream and river networks can be achieved through changes in urban and agricultural land use patterns, such as reduced agricultural fertilizer application.

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2 Comments
  1. The Paleoclimate Record shows agricultural-geo-engineering is responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. The unintended consequence, the flowering of our civilization. Our science has now realized these consequences and has developed a more encompassing wisdom. Wise land management, afforestation and the thermal conversion of biomass can build back our soil carbon. Pyrolysis, Gasification and Hydro-Thermal Carbonization are known biofuel technologies, What is new are the concomitant benefits of biochars for Soil Carbon Sequestration; building soil biodiversity & nitrogen efficiency, for in situ remediation of toxic agents, and, as a feed supplement cutting the carbon foot print of livestock. Modern systems are closed-loop with no significant emissions. The general life cycle analysis is: every 1 ton of biomass yields 1/3 ton Biochar equal to 1 ton CO2e, plus biofuels equal to 1MWh exported electricity, so each energy cycle is 1/3 carbon negative. [1] [2]

    [1]
    The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era Began Thousands of Years Ago
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/h328n0425378u736/

    The Columbian encounter led to terrestrial biospheric carbon sequestration on the order of 2 to 5 GtC Climate Forcing.
    The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: Abrupt Land Use Change, Fire, and Greenhouse Forcing – Annals of the Association of American Geographers
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?content=10.1080/00045608.2010.50243

    [2]
    FAO on Conservation Agricultural:
    “In general, soil carbon sequestration during the first decade of adoption of best conservation agricultural practices is 1.8 tons CO2 per hectare per year. On 5 billion hectares of agricultural land, this could represent one-third of the current annual global emission of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels (i.e., 27 Pg CO2 per year).”
    http://www.fao.org/ag/ca/doc/CA_SSC_Overview.pdf

    Adding just 1 Ton of Biochar per hectare, (800 lbs / acre), would cover 100% Current Annual Fossil CO2 Emissions.

    “Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Potential of Agricultural Land Management in the United States: A Synthesis of the Literature”
    An extensive scientific literature review providing a side-by-side comparison of the biophysical greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential of more than 40 agricultural land management activities in the United States.
    http://nicholasinstitute.duke.edu/ecosystem/land/TAGGDLitRev

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