Biochar impacts on runoff and soil erosion by water: a systematic global scale meta-analysis

Gholamahmadi, B., Jeffery, S., Gonzalez-Pelayo, O., Prats, S.A., Bastos, A.C., Keizer, J.J. and Verheijen, F.G.A. (2023) Biochar impacts on runoff and soil erosion by water: a systematic global scale meta-analysis. Science of The Total Environment, 871. ISSN 00489697

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Biochar application to soil has the potential to affect soil and vegetation properties that are key for the processes of runoff and soil erosion. However, both field and pot experiments show a vast range of effects, from strong reductions to strong increases in runoff and/or soil erosion. Therefore, this study aimed to quantify and interpret the impacts of biochar on runoff and soil erosion through the first systematic meta-analysis on this topic. The developed dataset consists of 184 pairwise observations for runoff and soil erosion from 30 independent studies but 8 of which just focused on soil erosion. Overall, biochar application to soil significantly reduced runoff by 25 % and erosion by 16 %. Mitigation of soil erosion in the tropics was approximately three times stronger (30 %) than at temperate latitudes (9 %); erosion reduction in the subtropical zone was 14 %, but not significantly different from either the tropical or temperate zones. Fewer reported field observations for runoff resulted in larger confidence intervals and only the temperate latitudes showed a significant effect (i.e. a 28 % reduction). At topsoil gravimetric biochar concentrations between 0.6 % and 2.5 %, significant reductions occurred in soil erosion, with no effect at lower and higher concentrations. Biochar experiments that included a vegetation cover reduced soil erosion more than twice as much as bare soil experiments, i.e. 27 % vs 12 %, respectively. This suggests that soil infiltration, canopy interception, and soil cohesion mechanisms may have synergistic effects. Soil amended with biochar pyrolyzed at >500 °C was associated with roughly double the erosion reduction than soil amended with biochar produced at 300–500 °C, which potentially could be related to the enhancement of hydrophobicity in the latter case. Our results demonstrate substantial potential for biochar to improve ecosystem services that are affected by increased infiltration and reduced erosion, while mechanistic understanding needs to be improved.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Biochar, Soil hydrology, Soil mechanism, Overland flow, Land degradation, Desertification
Divisions: Agriculture and Environment (from 1.08.20)
Depositing User: Mrs Rachael Giles
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2023 15:30
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2023 15:30

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