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Albedo Impact on the Suitability of Biochar Systems To Mitigate Global Warming

TitleAlbedo Impact on the Suitability of Biochar Systems To Mitigate Global Warming
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMeyer, Sebastian, Bright Ryan M., Fischer Daniel, Schulz Hardy, and Glaser Bruno
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume46
Issue22
Pagination12726–12734
Abstract

Biochar application to agricultural soils can change the surface albedo which could counteract the climate mitigation benefit of biochar systems. However, the size of this impact has not yet been quantified. Based on empirical albedo measurements and literature data of arable soils mixed with biochar, a model for annual vegetation cover development based on satellite data and an assessment of the annual development of surface humidity, an average mean annual albedo reduction of 0.05 has been calculated for applying 30–32 Mg ha–1 biochar on a test field near Bayreuth, Germany. The impact of biochar production and application on the carbon cycle and on the soil albedo was integrated into the greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of a modeled pyrolysis based biochar system via the computation of global warming potential (GWP) characterization factors. The analysis resulted in a reduction of the overall climate mitigation benefit of biochar systems by 13–22% due to the albedo change as compared to an analysis which disregards the albedo effect. Comparing the use of the same quantity of biomass in a biochar system to a bioenergy district heating system which replaces natural gas combustion, bioenergy heating systems achieve 99–119% of the climate benefit of biochar systems according to the model calculation.