IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/gam/jsusta/v2y2010i1p294-320d6826.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Black Carbon’s Properties and Role in the Environment: A Comprehensive Review

Author

Listed:
  • Gyami Shrestha

    () (Environmental Systems Program, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California-Merced, 5200 N. Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343, USA)

  • Samuel J. Traina

    () (Environmental Systems Program, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California-Merced, 5200 N. Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343, USA)

  • Christopher W. Swanston

    () (Northern Institute of Applied Carbon Science, Climate, Fire, & Carbon Cycle Science Research, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 410 MacInnes Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, USA)

Abstract

Produced from incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuel in the absence of oxygen, black carbon (BC) is the collective term for a range of carbonaceous substances encompassing partly charred plant residues to highly graphitized soot. Depending on its form, condition of origin and storage (from the atmosphere to the geosphere), and surrounding environmental conditions, BC can influence the environment at local, regional and global scales in different ways. In this paper, we review and synthesize recent findings and discussions on the nature of these different forms of BC and their impacts, particularly in relation to pollution and climate change. We start by describing the different types of BCs and their mechanisms of formation. To elucidate their pollutant sorption properties, we present some models involving polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and organic carbon. Subsequently, we discuss the stability of BC in the environment, summarizing the results of studies that showed a lack of chemical degradation of BC in soil and those that exposed BC to severe oxidative reactions to degrade it. After a brief overview of BC extraction and measurement methods and BC use for source attribution studies, we reflect upon its significance in the environment, first by going over a theory that it could represent parts of what is called the ‘missing sink’ of carbon in global carbon cycle models. Elaborating upon the relationship of BC with polycyclic hydrocarbons, we show its significance for the sorption and transport of pollutants. A description of pulmonary-respiratory health effects of soot BC inhalation is followed by a discussion on its impact on climate and climate change. We explain how soot BC acts as a global warming agent through light (and heat) absorption and how it reduces the snow’s albedo and promotes its uncharacteristic thawing. On a more positive note, we conclude this review by illustrating recent observations and simulations of how pyrolytic processes can stabilize plant carbon stocks in the form of biochar BC that can sequester carbon and can help mitigate climate change, in addition to improving soil fertility.

Suggested Citation

  • Gyami Shrestha & Samuel J. Traina & Christopher W. Swanston, 2010. "Black Carbon’s Properties and Role in the Environment: A Comprehensive Review," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(1), pages 1-27, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:1:p:294-320:d:6826
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/2/1/294/pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/2/1/294/
    Download Restriction: no

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Szu-Cheng Lu & Keh-Chin Chang & Wei-Min Lin & Kung-Ming Chung, 2015. "Energy Usage of Residents on Offshore Islands in Taiwan," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(6), pages 1-13, May.
    2. repec:eee:rensus:v:79:y:2017:i:c:p:255-273 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:5:p:870-:d:99325 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Powlson, D.S. & Gregory, P.J. & Whalley, W.R. & Quinton, J.N. & Hopkins, D.W. & Whitmore, A.P. & Hirsch, P.R. & Goulding, K.W.T., 2011. "Soil management in relation to sustainable agriculture and ecosystem services," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(S1), pages 72-87.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    soil carbon sequestration; carbon budget; atmospheric pollution; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; climate; biochar;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:1:p:294-320:d:6826. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (XML Conversion Team). General contact details of provider: http://www.mdpi.com/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.