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Projects: Projects for Investigator
Reference Number NE/H010645/1
Title Understanding processes determining soil carbon balances under perennial bioenergy crops CARBO-BIOCROP
Status Completed
Energy Categories Fossil Fuels: Oil Gas and Coal(CO2 Capture and Storage, CO2 storage) 25%;
Renewable Energy Sources(Bio-Energy) 75%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES (Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences) 100%
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Not Cross-cutting 75%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Environmental dimensions) 25%;
Principal Investigator Prof A (Andrew ) Lovett
No email address given
Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia
Award Type R&D
Funding Source NERC
Start Date 01 April 2010
End Date 31 March 2014
Duration 48 months
Total Grant Value £29,903
Industrial Sectors No relevance to Underpinning Sectors; Transport Systems and Vehicles
Region East of England
Programme Global Change, Natural Resource Management
Investigators Principal Investigator Prof A (Andrew ) Lovett , Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia (100.000%)
Web Site
Objectives The following grants are linked : NE/H010785/1 NE/H01067X/1 NE/H010688/1 NE/H010726/1 NE/H010742/1 NE/H010645/1 and NE/H010718/1
  1. Review peer-reviewed and grey literature on SOC and GHG emissions (C equivalents) for second generation bioenergy cropping systems and collate data into a database. Identify gaps and derive model parameters where possible for inputs and turnove r of carbon.
  2. Provide an improved empirical understanding of the response of SOC to conversion to SRC, and miscanthus, encompass ing years since conversion, soil texture, prior carbon status, temperature and rainfall (mean, seasonality).
  3. Develop a quantitative description of the dynamics of soil carbon flux (CO2) and/or soil carbon pools at two contrasting field sit es for up tofive years after conversion from grassland or arable to bioenergy crop.
  4. Develop a qualitative description of the process of SOC loss one to five years after conversion of land to biomass crops, focusing on the productivity of the rhizosphere and the fate of new carbon input emanating from the litter layer, perennial roots and rhizomes (pulse labelling).
  5. Assess the contribution of biochar as an option for increasing long-term soil carbon storage and minimizing short-term losses of SOC and so il N2O emissions following conversion to energy crops.
  6. Quantitatively test conceptual models, developed against empirical measurements.
  7. For selected detailed process-based models, derive parameter values and assess their sensitivity.
  8. Testproof of concept for extrapolation to a national picture using a land-use change scenarios and existing nati onal datasets to derivedriving variables.

In contrast to annual food crops, evidence suggests that biofuels from perennial bioenergy crops have a positive greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential. However, the magnitude of this benefit has been recently questioned, since long-term and indirect effects may considerably reduce any GHG savings generated by the cropping system. Indeed, impacts on soil C have been identified as the weaklink in life-cycle analysis of net carbon-equivalent benefit presented by bioenergy. Changes in rates of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) emission are relevant too since they have a large GHG warming potential, but these changes are mostly unquantified for perennial bioenergy cropping systems.

Although several soil carbon and trace-gas models have been developed for agricultural and conventional forest systems these have not been parameterized and validated for transition of land-use to perennial bioenergy crops. To predict the changes in SOC that will occur one to three decades after establishing biomass crops, we need to establish (a) differences in turnover dynamics and fluxes of carbon under key biomass crops in terms of amount, quality and placement of carbon into the soil from the plant, and (b) mechanisms to overcome short-term loss of pre-existing soil carbon during transition (c) quantitative, process-based modeling approaches that are predictive, to explore future scenarios for optimum soil carbon management.

The overarching aim of this project is to provide improved understanding of fundamental soil processes resulting in changes of soil carbonstocks and pools as a result of land conversion from arable/grassland to land-based renewables. The project focuses on impacts of land use change specifically to perennial bioenergy crops (fast growing SRC trees and grasses) where there is currently a significant knowledge gap. This project will generate new evidence to improve current understanding on how soil carbon processes, sequestration and emission, are affected by the introduction of perennial energy crops. The soil carbon balance is key to informing the debate on whether using these crops for bioenergy and biofuels will result in significant carbon savings compared to land use for food crops and the use of fossil fuels for heat, power and liquid fuels.

In the long-term (beyond the life of this project), this will enable dynamic, spatially explicit modeling of GHG (C equivalents, abbreviated here as C) mitigation potential of land-based bioenergy systems across different climates and soil types of the UK. We wish to develop ‘Carbon Opportunity Maps’ for the UK.

The work of the project will be undertaken in three work packages dealing with data synthesis (WP1), experimentaldata collection (WP2) and modeling (WP3). Throughout the project we will use leverage of other resources including two flagship sites at Brattleby and Aberystwyth, where commercial-scale plantations are established and where several long-term measuring and monitoring activities are underway funded from elsewhere. Similarly, the modeling resources from within the project are extensive andfundedfrom other sources that will be levered against the work here. They included DNDC, JULES, ROTH C and on-going modeling approaches for miscanthus and SRC.

Outputs will include a new database of synthesized data for soil carbon under bioenergy crops. We will have tested and calibrated process-based models that are capable of simulating the dynamics of soil organic carbon, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions for perennial bioenergy crops in the UK. We will provide increased fundamental understanding of soil processes occurring under bioenergy cropping systems including the role of mycorrhizal associations and the effectiveness of biochar as a potential to optimize soil carbon and plant growth. We will develop capacity for future ‘carbon opportunity’ mapping.

Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 13/10/10