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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: ADVANCED METHODS FOR SOIL CARBON ANALYSIS: INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY)

Author
item Ebinger, Michael
item Christy, Colin
item Harris, Ronny
item Martin, Madhavi
item Mccarty, Gregory
item Mitra, Sudeep
item Reeves iii, James
item Wielopolski, Lucian
item Wullschleger, Stan

Submitted to: Los Alamos National Laboratory Series
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/5/2006
Publication Date: 4/5/2006
Citation: Ebinger, M.H., Christy, C., Harris, R.H., Martin, M., Mccarty, G.W., Mitra, S., Reeves III, J.B., Wielopolski, L., Wullschleger, S. 2006. Advanced methods for soil carbon analysis: introduction and summary. Los Alamos National Laboratory Series.

Interpretive Summary: The increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has encouraged examination of ways to reduce atmospheric concentrations including the possibility of sequestering carbon in soils as part of the nature soil structure. The potential for soils to sequester significant amounts of carbon through specific land management practices is one area of carbon cycle research that could produce important reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide as well improve soil quality. However, improved methods for determining soil carbon concentrations and forms are needed, if sequestering C in soils is to be practical, due to the cost of presently available methods. This report examines several emerging techniques for the rapid and cost effective analysis of soils carbon content and forms. These methods include: laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) where a sample is vaporized by a laser at very high temperatures and the resulting light emitted studied; inelastic neutron scattering (INS) where the sample is bombarded with neutrons and near-infrared/mid-infrared (NIR/MIR) which utilizes light beyond the range of human site to determine the composition of samples. Application of the advanced methods will also allow for significant gains in cost effectiveness, providing the means to estimate carbon concentration and the uncertainties in these estimates with far more data and less cost than previously possible. In addition, each of the advanced methods can be used in the field to improve data collection efficiency. Used individually or in combination, these advanced methods could supply the data required to begin addressing important topics of concern about the carbon cycle and carbon dynamics in terrestrial systems in particular.

Technical Abstract: The increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has encouraged considerable research on carbon flux into and from terrestrial ecosystems. The potential for soils to sequester significant amounts of carbon through specific land management practices is one area of carbon cycle research that could produce important reduction in atmospheric greenhouse gases as well as societal benefit through improved soil. Other research efforts suggest the use of atmospheric carbon stored in soils and vegetation as a “crop” or commodity that can be sold or traded on open markets, a potentially lucrative option for agriculturalists, land managers, and/or energy. Along with these environmental and economic benefits are various socio-economic and health benefits that include improved air and water quality and the ability to maintain a sustainable economy in marginal. Underpinning carbon cycle research in terrestrial systems, though, is the requirement to be able to quantify carbon concentrations and inventories in soils with improved accuracy, precision, and increased cost effectiveness over conventional. Advanced methods of soil carbon analysis such as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), inelastic neutron scattering (INS), and near-infrared/mid-infrared address these accuracy and precision needs. Application of the advanced methods also allows for significant gains in cost effectiveness, providing the means to estimate carbon concentration and the uncertainties in these estimates with far more data and less cost than previously. In addition, each of the advanced methods can be used in the field to improve data collection efficiency even more. Used individually or in combination, these advanced methods could supply the data required to begin addressing important topics of concern about the carbon cycle and carbon dynamics in terrestrial systems in particular.

Last Modified: 8/24/2016
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