The potential use of biochar in reclaiming degraded rangelands
Many of the world's rangelands are degraded due to either natural or anthropogenic causes. One of the main indicators of the degradation process is the depletion of the organic carbon stocks in the soil. The organic carbon plays a crucial role in supporting the soil microbial community, maintaining the soil structure formation and stability, and retaining water and nutrients in the uppermost soil layers. Biochar, the by-product of the pyrolysis technology for bio-energy production, has been proven to have the capability to efficiently maintain soil quality and increase vegetative production. At the same time, the inert nature of the biochar enables the long-term sequestration of carbon in soil. To date, the application of biochar has been examined almost exclusively in arable lands, but not yet in rangelands. The objective of this paper is to raise awareness of this topic in order to encourage research and development in this field. Progress in knowledge and understanding on this matter could contribute to the reclamation of degraded rangelands. At the same time, it would potentially increase their capacity for long-term sequestration of carbon to a rate of between 0.69 and 10.7 Pg. Large-scale implementation of this practice in the future should be funded through central authorities, based on payments for improvement in ecosystem services.
Volume (Year): 55 (2012)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
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