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Title: Particulate matter emissions from biochar-amended soils as a potential tradeoff to the negative emission potential

item RAVI, SUJITH - Temple University
item Sharratt, Brenton
item LI, JUNRAN - University Of Tulsa
item OLSHEVSKI, STUART - Temple University
item MENG, ZHONGJU - Inner Mongolian Agriculture University
item ZHANG, JIANGUO - Northwest Agricultural & Forestry University

Submitted to: Scientific Reports
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/30/2016
Publication Date: 10/26/2016
Citation: Ravi, S., Sharratt, B.S., Li, J., Olshevski, S., Meng, Z., Zhang, J. 2016. Particulate matter emissions from biochar-amended soils as a potential tradeoff to the negative emission potential. Scientific Reports. 6:35984. doi:10.1038/srep35984

Interpretive Summary: Biochar has the potential to sequester carbon in soil and thus mitigate climate change. While application of biochar to agricultural lands may provide a way to reduce atmospheric carbon, little is known concerning the fate of biochar in soils. We found that the emission of fine particulates from soil is enhanced after the application of biochar. The increase in emissions of particulates, and especially black carbon, from soils amended with biochar can degrade air quality and exacerbate climate warming. Land managers, scientists, agricultural industry, and EPA must be judicious in applying biochar to agricultural soils to protect environmental resources in regions where there is concern for wind erosion.

Technical Abstract: Novel carbon sequestration strategies such as large-scale land application of biochar may provide sustainable pathways to increase the terrestrial storage of carbon. Biochar has a long residence time in the soil and hence comprehensive studies are urgently needed to quantify the environmental impacts of large-scale biochar application. In particular, black carbon emissions from soils amended with biochar may counteract the negative emission potential due the impacts on air quality, climate, and biogeochemical cycle. We investigated, using a wind tunnel, the particulate matter emission potential of three biochar-amended soils in comparison to control soils. Our results indicate that biochar application significantly increases particulate emissions by two mechanisms – the accelerated emission of fine biochar particles and generation and emission of fine biochar particles resulting from abrasion of large biochar particles by sand grains. Our study highlights the importance of considering the background soil properties and geomorphological processes for biochar-based carbon sequestration programs.