Daniel Rasse

Head of Department/Head of Research

(+47) 922 63 608
daniel.rasse@nibio.no

Place
Ås H7

Visiting address
Høgskoleveien 7, 1433 Ås

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Abstract

Mediterranean climate areas are home to highly relevant and distinctive agro-ecosystems, where sustainability is threatened by water scarcity and continuous loss of soil organic carbon. In these systems, recycling strategies to close the loop between crop production (and agrorelated industries) and soil conservation are of special interest in the current context of climate change mitigation. Pyrolysis represents a recycling option for the production of energy and biochar, a carbonaceous product with a wide range of environmental and agronomic applications. Considering that biochar functionality depends on both the original biomass and the pyrolysis conditions, we produced and characterized 22 biochars in order to evaluate their potential to sequester C and modify soil physicochemical properties. The pore size distribution was a function of the original biomass and did not change with the temperature of pyrolysis. The highest number of pores within the size 0.2−30 μm, relevant for plant available water retention, was reached at 600 °C. However, ideal pyrolysis conditions to optimize C stability and hydrologic properties was reached at 400 °C in woody derived biochars, as higher temperatures lead to a nontransient hydrophobicity. This study highlights relevant physicochemical properties of locally derived biochars that can be used to tackle specific challenges in Mediterranean agroecosystems.

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Abstract

Background: Global warming is going to affect both agricultural production and carbon storage in soil worldwide. Given the complexity of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, in situ experiments of climate warming are necessary to predict responses of plants and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) from soils. Arrays of infrared (IR) heaters have been successfully applied in temperate and tropical agro-ecosystems to produce uniform and large increases in canopy surface temperature across research plots. Because this method had not yet been tested in the Arctic where consequences of global warming on GHG emission are expected to be largest, the objective of this work was to test hexagonal arrays of IR heaters to simulate a homogenous 3 °C warming of the surface, i.e. canopy and visible bare soil, of five 10.5-m2 plots in an Arctic meadow of northern Norway. Results: Our results show that the IR warming setup was able to simulate quite accurately the target + 3 °C, thereby enabling us to simulate the extension of the growing season. Meadow yield increased under warming but only through the lengthening of the growing season. Our research also suggests that, when investigating agricultural systems on the Arctic, it is important to start the warming after the vegetation is established,. Indeed, differential emergence of meadow plants impaired the homogeneity of the warming with patches of bare soil being up to 9.5 °C warmer than patches of vegetation. This created a pattern of soil crusting, which further induced spatial heterogeneity of the vegetation. However, in the Arctic these conditions are rather rare as the soil exposed by snow melt is often covered by a layer of senescent vegetation which shelters the soil from direct radiation. Conclusions: Consistent continuous warming can be obtained on average with IR systems in an Arctic meadow, but homogenous spatial distribution requires that the warming must start after canopy closure.

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Abstract

There is growing international interest in better managing soils to increase soil organic carbon (SOC) content to contribute to climate change mitigation, to enhance resilience to climate change and to underpin food security, through initiatives such as international ‘4p1000’ initiative and the FAO's Global assessment of SOC sequestration potential (GSOCseq) programme. Since SOC content of soils cannot be easily measured, a key barrier to implementing programmes to increase SOC at large scale, is the need for credible and reliable measurement/monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) platforms, both for national reporting and for emissions trading. Without such platforms, investments could be considered risky. In this paper, we review methods and challenges of measuring SOC change directly in soils, before examining some recent novel developments that show promise for quantifying SOC. We describe how repeat soil surveys are used to estimate changes in SOC over time, and how long‐term experiments and space‐for‐time substitution sites can serve as sources of knowledge and can be used to test models, and as potential benchmark sites in global frameworks to estimate SOC change. We briefly consider models that can be used to simulate and project change in SOC and examine the MRV platforms for SOC change already in use in various countries/regions. In the final section, we bring together the various components described in this review, to describe a new vision for a global framework for MRV of SOC change, to support national and international initiatives seeking to effect change in the way we manage our soils.

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Abstract

Biochar has been shown to reduce nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from soils, but the effect is highly variable across studies and the mechanisms are under debate. To improve our mechanistic understanding of biochar effects on N2O emission, we monitored kinetics of NO, N2O and N2 accumulation in anoxic slurries of a peat and a mineral soil, spiked with nitrate and amended with feedstock dried at 105 °C and biochar produced at 372, 416, 562 and 796 °C at five different doses. Both soils accumulated consistently less N2O and NO in the presence of high-temperature chars (BC562 and BC796), which stimulated reduction of denitrification intermediates to N2, particularly in the acid peat. This effect appeared to be strongly linked to the degree of biochar carbonisation as predicted by the H:C ratio of the char. In addition, biochar surface area and pH were identified as important factors, whereas ash content and CEC played a minor role. At low pyrolysis temperature, the biochar effect was soil dependent, suppressing N2O accumulation in the mineral soil, but enhancing it in the peat soil. This contrast was likely due to the labile carbon content of low temperature chars, which contributed to immobilise N in the mineral soil, but stimulated denitrification and N2O emission in the peat soil. We conclude that biochar with a high degree of carbonisation, high pH and high surface area is best suited to supress N2O emission from denitrification, while low temperature chars risk supporting incomplete denitrification.

Abstract

Biochar is a carbon-rich material that, due to its inherent resistance to decomposition, is primarily developed with the aim of sequestering carbon in soil. Despite the convincing benefits of biochar as a climate mitigation solution, it has not yet advanced much beyond the research stage, notably because its effect on yield are too modest. Therefore, there is a need for win-win biochar solutions benefiting both food production and climate mitigation. Such a solution is the development of biochar fertilizers, which capitalizes on the capacity of biochar to capture and release nutrients. This effect is largely attributed to the porous structure and large surface area of biochar, with surface charges and ash content also appearing to play a role. The nutrient-retaining capacity of biochar appears to vary among studies investigating different types of biochar exposed to different types of nutrients (mineral anions and cations, organic molecules) under different conditions. In the present study, we will report on a meta-analysis of published biochar properties that are associated with controlling the sorption of nutrients. As biochar properties largely depend on pyrolysis conditions and feedstock properties, this work contributes to the selective design of biochars for the purpose of improving nutrient use efficiency.

Abstract

Norway is strongly committed to the Paris Climate Agreement with an ambitious goal of 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2030. The land sector, including agriculture and forestry, must critically contribute to this national target. Beyond emission reduction, the land sector has the unique capacity to actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere through biological carbon storage in biomass and in soils. Soils are the largest reservoir of terrestrial carbon, and relatively small changes in soil carbon content can have an amplified mitigation effect on the Earth’s climate. Therefore, improved management of soils for carbon storage is receiving a lot of attention, for example through international political initiatives such as the “4-permill” initiative. However, in Norway, many mitigation measures targeting soil carbon might negatively impact food production and economic activity. For example, soil carbon storage can be increased by shifting from cereal crop production to grasslands, but Norway already has abundant grassland and a comparatively small area dedicated to cereals. Another such issue is cultivation on drained peatland, where food is produced at the expense of large losses of soil carbon as CO2 to the atmosphere. Therefore, there is a need to look for win-win solutions for soil carbon storage, which benefit both food production and climate mitigation. Large-scale conversion of agricultural and forest waste biomass to biochar is such an option, and is considered the activity with the largest potential for soil carbon sequestration in Norway. Biochar has been demonstrated to have a mean residence time exceeding 100 years in Norwegian field conditions (Rasse et al, 2017), and no negative effects on plant and soils has been observed. However, despite the convincing benefits of biochar as a climate mitigation solution, it has not yet advanced much beyond the research stage, notably because its effect on yield are too modest. Here, we will first present the comparative advantage of biochar technology as compared to traditional agronomy methods for large-scale C storage in Norwegian agricultural soils. We will further discuss the need for developing innovations in pyrolysis and nutrient-rich waste recycling leading to biochar-fertilizer products as win-win solution for carbon storage and food production.

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Abstract

The application of biochar to soils is a promising technique for increasing soil organic C and offsetting GHG emissions. However, large-scale adoption by farmers will likely require the proof of its utility to improve plant growth and soil quality. In this context, we conducted a four-year field experiment between October 2010 to October 2014 on a fertile silty clay loam Albeluvisol in Norway to assess the impact of biochar on soil physical properties, soil microbial biomass, and oat and barley yield. The following treatments were included: Control (soil), miscanthus biochar 8 t C ha1 (BC8), miscanthus straw feedstock 8 t C ha1 (MC8), and miscanthus biochar 25 t C ha1 (BC25). Average volumetric water content at field capacity was significantly higher in BC25 when compared to the control due to changes in BD and total porosity. The biochar amendment had no effect on soil aggregate (2–6 mm) stability, pore size distribution, penetration resistance, soil microbial biomass C and N, and basal respiration. Biochar did not alter crop yields of oat and barley during the four growing seasons. In order to realize biochar’s climate mitigation potential, we suggest future research and development efforts should focus on improving the agronomic utility of biochar in engineered fertilizer and soil amendment products.

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Peatlands store substantial amounts of carbon and are vulnerable to climate change. We present a modified version of the Organising Carbon and Hydrology In Dynamic Ecosystems (ORCHIDEE) land surface model for simulating the hydrology, surface energy, and CO2 fluxes of peatlands on daily to annual timescales. The model includes a separate soil tile in each 0.5° grid cell, defined from a global peatland map and identified with peat-specific soil hydraulic properties. Runoff from non-peat vegetation within a grid cell containing a fraction of peat is routed to this peat soil tile, which maintains shallow water tables. The water table position separates oxic from anoxic decomposition. The model was evaluated against eddy-covariance (EC) observations from 30 northern peatland sites, with the maximum rate of carboxylation (Vcmax) being optimized at each site. Regarding short-term day-to-day variations, the model performance was good for gross primary production (GPP) (r2 =  0.76; Nash–Sutcliffe modeling efficiency, MEF  =  0.76) and ecosystem respiration (ER, r2 =  0.78, MEF  =  0.75), with lesser accuracy for latent heat fluxes (LE, r2 =  0.42, MEF  =  0.14) and and net ecosystem CO2 exchange (NEE, r2 =  0.38, MEF  =  0.26). Seasonal variations in GPP, ER, NEE, and energy fluxes on monthly scales showed moderate to high r2 values (0.57–0.86). For spatial across-site gradients of annual mean GPP, ER, NEE, and LE, r2 values of 0.93, 0.89, 0.27, and 0.71 were achieved, respectively. Water table (WT) variation was not well predicted (r2 < 0.1), likely due to the uncertain water input to the peat from surrounding areas. However, the poor performance of WT simulation did not greatly affect predictions of ER and NEE. We found a significant relationship between optimized Vcmax and latitude (temperature), which better reflects the spatial gradients of annual NEE than using an average Vcmax value.

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Extreme winter events that damage vegetation are considered an important climatic cause of arctic browning—a reversal of the greening trend of the region—and possibly reduce the carbon uptake of northern ecosystems. Confirmation of a reduction in CO2 uptake due to winter damage, however, remains elusive due to a lack of flux measurements from affected ecosystems. In this study, we report eddy covariance fluxes of CO2 from a peatland in northern Norway and show that vegetation CO2 uptake was delayed and reduced in the summer of 2014 following an extreme winter event earlier that year. Strong frost in the absence of a protective snow cover—its combined intensity unprecedented in the local climate record—caused severe dieback of the dwarf shrub species Calluna vulgaris and Empetrum nigrum. Similar vegetation damage was reported at the time along ~1000 km of coastal Norway, showing the widespread impact of this event. Our results indicate that gross primary production (GPP) exhibited a delayed response to temperature following snowmelt. From snowmelt up to the peak of summer, this reduced carbon uptake by 14 (0–24) g C m−2 (~12% of GPP in that period)—similar to the effect of interannual variations in summer weather. Concurrently, remotely-sensed NDVI dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade. However, bulk photosynthesis was eventually stimulated by the warm and sunny summer, raising total GPP. Species other than the vulnerable shrubs were probably resilient to the extreme winter event. The warm summer also increased ecosystem respiration, which limited net carbon uptake. This study shows that damage from a single extreme winter event can have an ecosystem-wide impact on CO2 uptake, and highlights the importance of including winter-induced shrub damage in terrestrial ecosystem models to accurately predict trends in vegetation productivity and carbon sequestration in the Arctic and sub-Arctic.

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Agriculture and land use change has significantly increased atmospheric emissions of the non-CO2 green-house gases (GHG) nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). Since human nutritional and bioenergy needs continue to increase, at a shrinking global land area for production, novel land management strategies are required that reduce the GHG footprint per unit of yield. Here we review the potential of biochar to reduce N2O and CH4 emissions from agricultural practices including potential mechanisms behind observed effects. Furthermore, we investigate alternative uses of biochar in agricultural land management that may significantly reduce the GHG-emissions-per-unit-of-product footprint, such as (i) pyrolysis of manures as hygienic alternative to direct soil application, (ii) using biochar as fertilizer carrier matrix for underfoot fertilization, biochar use (iii) as composting additive or (iv) as feed additive in animal husbandry or for manure treatment. We conclude that the largest future research needs lay in conducting life-cycle GHG assessments when using biochar as an on-farm management tool for nutrient-rich biomass waste streams.

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Abstract

Infrared and 13C solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies and benzene polycarboxylic acids (BPCA) analysis were used to characterize the structural changes occurring during slow pyrolysis of corncob and Miscanthus at different temperatures from 235 °C to 800 °C. In the case of corncob, a char sample obtained from flash carbonization was also investigated. Spectroscopic techniques gave detailed information on the transformations of the different biomass components, whereas BPCA analysis allowed the amount of aromatic structures present in the different chars and the degree of aromatic condensation to be determined. The results showed that above 500 °C both corncob and Miscanthus give polyaromatic solid residues with similar degree of aromatic condensation but with differences in the structure. On the other hand, at lower temperatures, char composition was observed to depend on the different cellulose/hemicellulose/lignin ratios in the feedstocks. Flash carbonization was found to mainly affect the degree of aromatic condensation.

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Abstract

Evaluating biochars for their persistence in soil under field conditions is an important step towards their implementation for carbon sequestration. Current evaluations might be biased because the vast majority of studies are short-term laboratory incubations of biochars produced in laboratory-scale pyrolyzers. Here our objective was to investigate the stability of a biochar produced with a medium-scale pyrolyzer, first through laboratory characterization and stability tests and then through field experiment. We also aimed at relating properties of this medium-scale biochar to that of a laboratory-made biochar with the same feedstock. Biochars were made of Miscanthus biomass for isotopic C-tracing purposes and produced at temperatures between 600 and 700°C. The aromaticity and degree of condensation of aromatic rings of the medium-scale biochar was high, as was its resistance to chemical oxidation. In a 90-day laboratory incubation, cumulative mineralization was 0.1% for the medium-scale biochar vs. 45% for the Miscanthus feedstock, pointing to the absence of labile C pool in the biochar. These stability results were very close to those obtained for biochar produced at laboratory-scale, suggesting that upscaling from laboratory to medium-scale pyrolyzers had little effect on biochar stability. In the field, the medium-scale biochar applied at up to 25 t C ha-1 decomposed at an estimated 0.8% per year. In conclusion, our biochar scored high on stability indices in the laboratory and displayed a mean residence time > 100 years in the field, which is the threshold for permanent removal in C sequestration projects.

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Increased mineralization of the organic matter (OM) stored in permafrost is expected to constitute the largest additional global warming potential from terrestrial ecosystems exposed to a warmer climate. Chemical composition of permafrost OM is thought to be a key factor controlling the sensitivity of decomposition to warming. Our objective was to characterise OM from permafrost soils of the European Arctic: two mineral soils—Adventdalen, Svalbard, Norway and Vorkuta, northwest Russia— and a ‘‘palsa’’ (ice-cored peat mound patterning in heterogeneous permafrost landscapes) soil in Neiden, northern Norway, in terms of molecular composition and state of decomposition. At all sites, the OM stored in the permafrost was at an advanced stage of decomposition, although somewhat less so in the palsa peat. By comparing permafrost and active layers, we found no consistent effect of depth or permafrost on soil organic matter (SOM) chemistry across sites. The permafrost-affected palsa peat displayed better preservation of plant material in the deeper layer, as indicated by increasing contribution of lignin carbon to total carbon with depth, associated to decreasing acid (Ac) to aldehyde (Al) ratio of the syringyl (S) and vanillyl (V) units, and increasing S/V and contribution of plant-derived sugars. By contrast, in Adventdalen, the Ac/Al ratio of lignin and the Alkyl C to O-alkyl C ratio in the NMR spectra increased with depth, which suggests less oxidized SOM in the active layer compared to the permafrost layer. In Vorkuta, SOM characteristics in the permafrost profile did not change substantially with depth, probably due to mixing of soil layers by cryoturbation. The composition and state of decomposition of SOM appeared to be site-specific, in particular bound to the prevailing organic or mineral nature of soil when attempting to predict the SOM proneness to degradation. The occurrence of processes such as palsa formation in organic soils and cryoturbation should be considered when up-scaling and predicting the responses of OM to climate change in arctic soils.

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Biochar and its properties can be significantly altered according to how it is produced, and this has ramifications towards how biochar behaves once added to soil. We produced biochars from corncob and miscanthus straw via different methods (slow pyrolysis, hydrothermal and flash carbonization) and temperatures to assess how carbon cycling and soil microbial communities were affected. Mineralization of biochar, its parent feedstock, and native soil organic matter were monitored using 13C natural abundance during a 1-year lab incubation. Bacterial and fungal community compositions were studied using T-RFLP and ARISA, respectively. We found that persistent biochar-C with a half-life 60 times higher than the parent feedstock can be achieved at pyrolysis temperatures of as low as 370 °C, with no further gains to be made at higher temperatures. Biochar re-applied to soil previously incubated with our highest temperature biochar mineralized faster than when applied to unamended soil. Positive priming of native SOC was observed for all amendments but subsided by the end of the incubation. Fungal and bacterial community composition of the soil-biochar mixture changed increasingly with the application of biochars produced at higher temperatures as compared to unamended soil. Those changes were significantly (P < 0.005) related to biochar properties (mainly pH and O/C) and thus were correlated to pyrolysis temperature. In conclusion, our results suggest that biochar produced at temperatures as low as 370 °C can be utilized to sequester C in soil for more than 100 years while having less impact on soil microbial activities than high-temperature biochars.

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The water management system of cultivated paddy rice soils is one of the most important factors affecting the respective magnitudes of CH4 and N2O emissions. We hypothesized an effect of past management on soil microbial communities and greenhouse gas (GHG) production potential. The ob- jectives of this study were to i) assess the influence of water management history on GHG production and microbial community structure, ii) relate GHG production to the microbial communities involved in CH4 and N2O production inhabiting the different soils. Moreover, the influence of different soil condi- tioning procedures on GHG production was determined. To reach these aims, we compared four soils with different water management history, using dried and sieved, pre-incubated and fresh soils. Soil conditioning procedures strongly affected GHG production: drying and sieving induced the highest production rates and the largest differences among soil types, probably through the release of labile substrates. Conversely, soil pre-incubation tended to homogenize and level out the differences among soils. The water management history strongly affected microbial community structure, which was itself tightly linked to CH4 and N2O production. N2O production was the highest in aerobic soil, which also exhibited the strongest evidence for active nitrifying communities (NirK). Drying and rewetting aerobic soil enhanced the production of nitrate, which was further reduced to N2O through denitrification. As expected, CH4 production was the lowest in aerobic soil, which showed a less abundant archaeal com- munity. This work supports the hypothesis that microbial communities in paddy soils progressively adapt to water management practices, thereby reinforcing potential differences in GHGs production.

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Biochar is a carbon-rich solid product obtained by pyrolysis of biomass. Here, we investigated multiple biochars produced under slow pyrolysis (235–800 °C), flash carbonization, and hydrothermal carbonization (HTC), using Scanning Electron Microscope—Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) in order to determine whether SEM-EDX can be used as a proxy to characterize biochars effectively. Morphological analysis showed that feedstock has an integrated structure compared to biochar; more pores were generated, and the size became smaller when the temperature increased. Maximum carbon content (max. C) and average carbon content (avg. C) obtained from SEM-EDX exhibited a positive relationship with pyrolysis temperature, with max. C correlating most closely with dry combustion total carbon content. The SEM-EDX O/C ratios displayed a consistent response with the highest treatment temperature (HTT). The study suggests that SEM-EDX produces highly consistent C, oxygen (O), and C/O ratios that deserve further investigation as an operational tool for characterization of biochar products.

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Abstract

Greenhouse gas exchange between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere are an important element of the climate system. Especially boreal and polar wetlands and peatlands may play a crucial role for the future development of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane concentrations, because they contain stores of these gases in the same order of magnitude as the current atmospheric load. The aim of this project was to estimate the fluxes of CO2 and CH4 from an oceanic wetland in North‐Norway. Seven years of observations reveal that carbon exchange from this ecosystem is comparable to that of moderate zone coastal wetlands, but distinctly different from alpine and continental wetlands at the same latitude in Sweden and Finland. The seven‐year record of meteorological data reveals that the observed period was significantly warmer (especially during winter) and drier (especially in summer) than the climate reference period 1961‐1990. Carbon fluxes during the growing season are sensitive to both draught, cold spells and soil climate conditions before the onset of the growing season, but the annual Net Ecosystem Exchange is much less variable.

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Northern peatlands hold large amounts of organic carbon (C) in their soils and are as such important in a climate change context. Blanket bogs, i.e. nutrient-poor peatlands restricted to maritime climates, may be extra vulnerable to global warming since they require a positive water balance to sustain their moss dominated vegetation andCsink functioning. This study presents a 4.5 year record of land– atmosphere carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange from the Andøya blanket bog in northern Norway. Compared with other peatlands, the Andøya peatland exhibited low flux rates, related to the low productivity of the dominating moss and lichen communities and the maritime settings that attenuated seasonal temperature variations. It was observed that under periods of high vapour pressure deficit, net ecosystem exchange was reduced, which was mainly caused by a decrease in gross primary production. However, no persistent effects of dry conditions on theCO2 exchange dynamics were observed, indicating that under present conditions and within the range of observed meteorological conditions the Andøya blanket bog retained its Cuptake function. Continued monitoring of these ecosystem types is essential in order to detect possible effects of a changing climate. peatland, carbon, blanket bog, eddy covariance, climate change, net ecosystem exchange

Abstract

Studies examining the effect of biochar on N2O turnover in soil have demonstrated that biochar affects both the rate and product ratio of denitrification. The mechanisms proposed include pH effects on N2O reductase , sorption of N2O and electron shuttling to N2O reductases. Recent studies suggest that pyrolysis alters the redox chemistry of biochar leading to the formation of redox active compounds which are thought to mediate the observed suppression of N2O in biochar amended soil. Redox active components however may not only be of significance to biological processes but also catalyze abiotic reactions of N-species which could confound the estimation of biological effects. Here we report experiments designed to examined abiotic interaction between biochar and NO in anoxic water slurries with biochar of increasing pyrolysis temperature. We determined the fate of NO added to the headspace of closed anoxic bottles using high frequency measurements of NO, N2O and N2. Our initial results show a swift disappearance of added NO which can not entirely be attributed to sorption to the biochar. Small but constant quantities of N2O were generated after NO addition indicating abiotic turnover of NO by biochar. NO is an important signal molecule in the regulation of denitrification and hence it is important to elucidate possible abiotic feedbacks of NO reactions in soil. The results will be discussed relative to the redox properties of the biochars tested.

Abstract

Precise methods for the detection of geologically stored CO2within and above soil surfaces are an impor-tant component of the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) under terrestrial environments.Although CO2leaks are not expected in well-chosen and operated storage sites, monitoring is required bylegislation and any leakage needs to be quantified under the EU Emissions Trading Directive. The objec-tive of the present research was to test if13C stable isotope motoring of soil and canopy atmosphere CO2increases our detection sensitivity for CCS-CO2as compared with concentration monitoring only. A CO2injection experiment was designed to create a horizontal CO2gradient across 6 m × 3 m plots, which weresown with oats in 2011 and 2012. Injected CO2was methane derived and had an isotopic signature of−46.2‰. The CO2concentrations were measured within the soil profile with passive samplers and at sev-eral heights within the crop canopies. The CO2fluxes and their13C signatures were also measured acrossthe experimental plots. In situ monitoring and gas samples measurements were conducted with a cavityring down spectrometer (CRDS). The plots displayed hot spots of injected-CO2leakage clearly detectableby either concentration or isotopic signature measurements. In addition, the13C signature measurementsallow us to detect injected CO2in plot regions where its presence could not be unequivocally ascertainedbased on concentration measurement alone.

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Globally, soil organic matter (SOM) contains more than three times as much carbon as either the atmosphere or terrestrial vegetation. Yet it remains largely unknown why some SOM persists for millennia whereas other SOM decomposes readily—and this limits our ability to predict how soils will respond to climate change. Recent analytical and experimental advances have demonstrated that molecular structure alone does not control SOM stability: in fact, environmental and biological controls predominate. Here we propose ways to include this understanding in a new generation of experiments and soil carbon models, thereby improving predictions of the SOM response to global warming.

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The aliphatic biopolyesters cutins and suberins have been suggested to significantly contribute to the stable pool of soil organic matter (SOM), and to be tracers for the above- or belowground origin of plant material. Contrary to other plant-derived aliphatic molecules found in the lipid fraction of soils, the stable isotope derived estimates of turnover of cutins and suberins have never been studied in soils. The aim of this study was to analyse the dynamics of shoot- and root-derived biomarkers in soils using a wheat and maize (C3/C4) chronosequence, where changes in the natural 13C abundance can be used to evaluate the incorporation of new carbon into SOM at the molecular level. The relative distribution of aliphatic monomers in wheat and maize roots and shoots suggested that a,u-alkanedioic acids can be considered as root-specific markers and mid-chain hydroxy acids as shoot-specific markers. The contrasting distribution of the plant-specific monomers in plants and soils might be explained by different chemical mechanisms leading to selective degradation or stabilization of some biomarkers. The changes of the 13C isotopic signatures of these markers with years of maize cropping after wheat evidenced their contrasted behaviour in soil. After 12 years of maize cropping, shoot markers present in soil samples probably originated from old C3 vegetation suggesting that new maize cutin added to soils was mostly degraded within a year. The reasons for long-term stabilization of shoot biomarkers remain unclear. By contrast, maize root markers were highly incorporated into SOM during the first six years of maize crop, which suggested a selective preservation of root biomass when compared to shoots, possibly due to physical protection.

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The molecular composition of plant residues is suspected to largely govern the fate of their constitutive carbon (C) in soils. Labile compounds, such as metabolic carbohydrates, are affected differently from recalcitrant and structural compounds by soil-C stabilisation mechanisms. Producing 13C-enriched plant residues with specifically labeled fractions would help us to investigate the fate in soils of the constitutive C of these compounds. The objective of the present research was to test 13C pulse chase labeling as a method for specifically enriching the metabolic carbohydrate components of plant residues, i.e. soluble sugars and starch. Bean plants were exposed to a 13CO2-enriched atmosphere for 0.5, 1, 2, 3 and 21 h. The major soluble sugars were then determined on watersoluble extracts, and starch on HCl-hydrolysable extracts. The results show a quick differential labeling between water-soluble and water-insoluble compounds. For both groups, 13C-labeling increased linearly with time. The difference in δ13C signature between water-soluble and insoluble fractions was 7% after 0.5 h and 70% after 21 h. However, this clear isotopic contrast masked a substantial labeling variability within each fraction. By contrast, metabolic carbohydrates on the one hand (i.e. soluble sugarsRstarch) and other fractions (essentially cell wall components) on the other hand displayed quite homogeneous signatures within fractions, and a significant difference in labeling between fractions: δ13C=414±3.7% and 56±5.5%, respectively. Thus, the technique generates labeled plant residues displaying contrasting 13C-isotopic signatures between metabolic carbohydrates and other compounds, with homogenous signatures within each group. Metabolic carbohydrates being labile compounds, our findings suggest that the technique is particularly appropriate for investigating the effect of compound lability on the long-term storage of their constitutive C in soils.