Biochar built soil carbon over a decade by stabilizing rhizodeposits
Weng, Z, Van Zwieten, L, Singh, BP, Tavakkoli, E, Joseph, S, Mcdonald, LM, Rose, TJ, Rose, MT, Kimber, SWL, Morris, S, Cozzolino, D, Araujo, JR, Archanjo, BS & Cowie, A 2017, 'Biochar built soil carbon over a decade by stabilizing rhizodeposits', Nature Climate Change, vol. 7, pp. 371-376.
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Biochar can increase the stable C content of soil. However, studies on the longer-term role of plant–soil–biochar interactions and the consequent changes to native soil organic carbon (SOC) are lacking. Periodic 13CO2 pulse labelling of ryegrass was used to monitor belowground C allocation, SOC priming, and stabilization of root-derived C for a 15-month period—commencing 8.2 years after biochar (Eucalyptus saligna, 550 °C) was amended into a subtropical ferralsol. We found that field-aged biochar enhanced the belowground recovery of new root-derived C (13C) by 20%, and facilitated negative rhizosphere priming (it slowed SOC mineralization by 5.5%, that is, 46 g CO2-C m−2 yr−1). Retention of root-derived 13C in the stable organo-mineral fraction (<53 μm) was also increased (6%, P < 0.05). Through synchrotron-based spectroscopic analysis of bulk soil, field-aged biochar and microaggregates (<250 μm), we demonstrate that biochar accelerates the formation of microaggregates via organo-mineral interactions, resulting in the stabilization and accumulation of SOC in a rhodic ferralsol.