Reductions in soil surface albedo as a function of biochar application rate: Implications for global radiative forcing

Verheijen FGA, Jeffery S, van der Velde M, Penizek V, Beland M, Bastos AC, & Keizer JJ (2013). Reductions in soil surface albedo as a function of biochar application rate: Implications for global radiative forcing. Environmental Research Letters 8 (4): no.044008. DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/044008.

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Abstract

Biochar can be defined as pyrolysed (charred) biomass produced for application to soils with the aim of mitigating global climate change while improving soil functions. Sustainable biochar application to soils has been estimated to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 71-130 Pg CO2-Ce over 100 years, indicating an important potential to mitigate climate change. However, these estimates ignored changes in soil surface reflection by the application of dark-coloured biochar. Through a laboratory experiment we show a strong tendency for soil surface albedo to decrease as a power decay function with increasing biochar application rate, depending on soil moisture content, biochar application method and land use. Surface application of biochar resulted in strong reductions in soil surface albedo even at relatively low application rates. As a first assessment of the implications for climate change mitigation of these biochar-albedo relationships, we applied a first order global energy balance model to compare negative radiative forcings (from avoided CO2 emissions) with positive radiative forcings (from reduced soil surface albedos). For a global-scale biochar application equivalent to 120 t/ha, we obtained reductions in negative radiative forcings of 5 and 11% for croplands and 11 and 23% for grasslands, when incorporating biochar into the topsoil or applying it to the soil surface, respectively. For a lower global biochar application rate (equivalent to 10 t/ha), these reductions amounted to 13 and 44% for croplands and 28 and 94% for grasslands. Thus, our findings revealed the importance of including changes in soil surface albedo in studies assessing the net climate change mitigation potential of biochar, and we discuss the urgent need for field studies and more detailed spatiotemporal modelling.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Geo-engineering; Radiative forcing; Spectroscopy; Soil; Biochar
Research Programs: Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:48
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2016 09:51
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/10390

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