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9781847559715-00179

9781847559715-00179

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Carbon Sequestration in Soils
STEPHEN J. CHAPMAN
1 Introduction to the Carbon Cycle in Soil
Carbon sequestration in soils is the process whereby atmospheric carbondioxide can be fixed into soil such that it is held there in a relatively permanentform,
i.e.
the term ‘sequestration’ implies a combination of both capture andstorage. This, of course, will require that the carbon dioxide is converted tosome other chemical form and this will usually be organic rather than inor-ganic. An understanding of how this might be promoted first requires anunderstanding of the carbon cycle in soil.There is an inorganic carbon cycle in soil, whereby carbon dioxide dissolvedin rainwater forms carbonic acid which then reacts with basic cations to formsecondary carbonates, or with calcium–magnesium silicate minerals during theweathering process to release basic cations that then precipitate as carbonates.
1
However, such processes are extremely slow and are only likely to be of importance in the saline and sodic (alkaline) soils found in arid and semi-aridzones.
2
Hence, the inorganic carbon cycle is not of consequence for most UKand European soils.Of far greater significance is the organic carbon cycle, whereby atmosphericcarbon dioxide is fixed by photosynthesis into plants by forming organiccompounds, the bulk of which are cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, thoughwith additional protein, lipids and other complex compounds. As plants die,these compounds enter the soil and are broken down by the action of soilmicroorganisms which then release the carbon dioxide back into the atmo-sphere (see Figure 1). Of course, an important sub-cycle occurs where plants areconsumed by animals; part of the carbon is respired, but animal excreta (andthe animals themselves as they die) ultimately finds its way into the soil only tobe decomposed along with the plant remains.
179
Issues in Environmental Science and Technology, 29Carbon Capture: Sequestration and StorageEdited by R.E. Hester and R.M. Harrison
r
Royal Society of Chemistry 2010Published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, www.rsc.org
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   U   N   I   V   E   R   S   I   D   A   D   D   E   C   H   I   L   E  o  n   0   5   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   2   P  u   b   l   i  s   h  e   d  o  n   2   2   D  e  c  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   0   9  o  n   h   t   t  p  :   /   /  p  u   b  s .  r  s  c .  o  r  g   |   d  o   i  :   1   0 .   1   0   3   9   /   9   7   8   1   8   4   7   5   5   9   7   1   5  -   0   0   1   7   9
 
1.1 Plant Production
Plant productivity, measured as the annual (or seasonal) input of carbon (C) tothe whole plant, including both shoots and roots, varies greatly across naturalecosystems, going from deserts to tropical rainforests, with mean values of lessthan 0.5tCha
À
1
a
À
1
to over 10tCha
À
1
a
À
1
, respectively (see Table 1). Someintensive cropping systems can have greater productivity, but usually with highinputs of fertiliser, pesticides and irrigation. On a global scale, the fixation of carbon amounts to 120Pga
À
1
(1Pg
¼
10
15
g
¼
1 Gt; t
¼
tonne; a
¼
annum
, or year;ha
¼
hectare), but half of this immediately returns to the atmosphere in shoot androot respiration (see Figure 2). Thus 60PgCa
À
1
is available to enter the soil.An important aspect of plant production is that what is seen above ground isonly part of the story. Up to 40% of the carbon captured by photosynthesis isdirected towards the roots. Part of this forms what is known as rhizoexudates:soluble carbon compounds released by the roots into the soil, root cells‘sloughed off’ into the soil and dead roots, which are part of the ongoing rootturnover that most plants exhibit.
1.2 Decomposition
Decomposition is the process of carbon mineralisation, whereby organic car-bon is converted back to carbon dioxide which is then released back into theatmosphere. This is also referred to as soil respiration. Often the initial step is
Soil Organic MatterAnimalsPlantsAtmosphere
Figure 1
The Carbon Cycle.180
Stephen J. Chapman
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   U   N   I   V   E   R   S   I   D   A   D   D   E   C   H   I   L   E  o  n   0   5   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   2   P  u   b   l   i  s   h  e   d  o  n   2   2   D  e  c  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   0   9  o  n   h   t   t  p  :   /   /  p  u   b  s .  r  s  c .  o  r  g   |   d  o   i  :   1   0 .   1   0   3   9   /   9   7   8   1   8   4   7   5   5   9   7   1   5  -   0   0   1   7   9
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the consumption of plant debris by soil animals, ranging from a host of largerinvertebrates (the ‘macrofauna’) like woodlice, centipedes and earthworms; tosmaller animals (the ‘mesofauna’) like mites, springtails and enchytraeidworms; and to the smallest animals (the ‘microfauna’) such as nematodes and
Table 1
Mean Net Primary Production (NPP) for some major vegetationzones.
45
Ecosystem NPP (tCha
À
1
a
À
1
)
Desert 0.5Tundra 1Needle-leaf forest 3Grasslands 4Summer-green broad-leaf forest 5.5Sub-humid woodlands 6.5Ever-green broad-leaf forest 8Tropical rain forest 10
Landplants560 PgSoilOrganicMatter1 550 PgAtmosphere760 PgOcean38 400 Pg
Deforestation 1.6 Pg a
-1
Plant respiration 60 Pg a
-1
Uptake92.3Pg a
-1
Erosion 0.6 Pg a
-1
Soil respiration 60 Pg a
-1
Plant litter,Rhizodeposition, 60 Pg a
-1
Dead wood,etc.Photosynthesis 120 Pg a
-1
Release90Pg a
-1
Fossil fuels7.0 Pg a
-1
Figure 2
Global carbon pools and fluxes. Modified from Lal (2008).
35
181
Carbon Sequestration in Soils
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   U   N   I   V   E   R   S   I   D   A   D   D   E   C   H   I   L   E  o  n   0   5   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   2   P  u   b   l   i  s   h  e   d  o  n   2   2   D  e  c  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   0   9  o  n   h   t   t  p  :   /   /  p  u   b  s .  r  s  c .  o  r  g   |   d  o   i  :   1   0 .   1   0   3   9   /   9   7   8   1   8   4   7   5   5   9   7   1   5  -   0   0   1   7   9
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