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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Three studies look at soil's carbon storage capacity

As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, methods to mitigate these increases are becoming very important. Three studies published in the July-August 2008 issue of Soil Science Society of America Journal explore the potential roles of soils as a C sink in different regions in the Western Hemisphere. The studies all demonstrate that C storage capacity of soils in different regions of the Western Hemisphere respond similarly to a diverse range of management practices to increase soil C input.

The studies did not yet analyse the sequestration potential of C via biochar - a recalcitrant form of carbon that can be stored in soils unaltered for centuries, perhaps even millenia. Instead they analysed the effect of more traditional soil management practises, such as the elimination of fallow or the establishment of grass. In any case, scientists are suspecting the global potential for soils to absorb and lock up carbon can be very large (previous post).

Scientists from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (Canada), the National Institute of Agricultural Technology, the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), and University of California, Davis (USA) have investigated soil C balance in distinct agroecosystems under different management practices including soil tillage, N fertilization, elimination of fallow, and establishment of grass. In each case, C sequestration occurred in response to higher C input to soil; however, increase in SOC was confined to labile fractions such as the light fraction and larger soil aggregates.

Investigation: Canada
In southeastern Alberta, a long-term study showed previously that eliminating summer fallow or establishing grass significantly increased soil organic C after 6 yr. In the 12th year of the study, total organic C and light fraction C were determined in three rotations with summer fallow, two continuously cropped rotations and grass. All rotations had subtreatments with different levels of fertilization. The light fraction of soil C was obtained using density separation and consisted mostly of non-decomposed root and straw fragments.

Although soil organic C was increased by elimination of summer fallow, fertilization, and establishment of grass, gains in soil organic C between Years 6 and 12 were negligible in all treatments except the fertilized grass treatment. Most of the gains in total soil organic C were due to increased light fraction C. The results indicate that much of the gain in soil organic C in response to improved practices on semiarid prairie soils likely occurs within one decade.

Investigation: Argentina
In the semiarid portion of the Pampas, scientist compared no-till management to a conventional tillage system (disk-tillage). Emissions of CO2-C from the soil and crop C inputs were determined, estimating soil C balance under both tillage systems.

As a part of this study, a field experiment was performed during 6 yr on an Entic Haplustoll where no-till and disk-tillage was applied to a soil cropped under a common rotation in the region (oat + hairy vetch, corn, wheat, oat). From Year 3 to 6 in situ CO2-C fluxes were measured and C inputs from above and below ground plant residues were estimated.

Results showed that in the semiarid environment of the study C sequestration occurred under no-till. The sequestration process was attributed to the effect of tillage systems on crop productivity rather than on the mineralization intensity of soil organic pools:
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Investigation: United States
In Kentucky (USA) a study was conducted in a corn agroecosystem experiment to test the soil C saturation concept which postulates that there is an upper limit to the equilibrium soil C level of mineral soils even when soil C input is increased. In this experiment, a gradient of soil C input was produced with four N fertilizer application rates under two tillage systems, no-till and moldboard plowing. To investigate if physical protection of organic C leads to soil C saturation, C stabilization in soil fractions that differ in C stabilization potential was determined, and the relationship between soil C input and soil organic C was analyzed.

Total soil organic C was positively related to C input, and this was primarily due to C stabilization in larger soil aggregates. In both tillage systems, however, C in the two smallest soil size fractions did not increase with greater C input. Moreover, in three soil fractions further separated from larger soil aggregates, C associated with particulate organic matter and microaggregates increased with C input, but there was no increase in C associated with silt-plus-clay, which was the smallest soil size fraction.

Haegeun Chung at University of California, Davis, the first author of the study conducted in Kentucky (USA), stated “Our results indicate that soil fractions with low C stabilization potential show C saturation. Therefore, we need to consider soil C saturation levels to better predict the change in C sink capacity and fertility of soils when soil C input increases under higher plant production or organic amendment.”

E. Bremera, H. H. Janzenb, B. H. Ellertb and R. H. McKenzie, "Soil Organic Carbon after Twelve Years of Various Crop Rotations in an Aridic Boroll", Soil Sci Soc Am J 72:970-974 (2008), DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2007.0327

Alfredo Bonoa, R. Alvarezb, D. E. Buschiazzoc and R. J. C. Cantet, "Tillage Effects on Soil Carbon Balance in a Semiarid Agroecosystem", Soil Sci Soc Am J 72:1140-1149 (2008), DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2007.0250

Haegeun Chunga, John H. Groveb and Johan Sixa, "Indications for Soil Carbon Saturation in a Temperate Agroecosystem", Soil Sci Soc Am J 72:1132-1139 (2008), DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2007.0265

Biopact: FAO introduces new global soil database: allows analysis of carbon sequestration and biochar potential - July 21, 2008


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