• Open Access

A method for screening the relative long-term stability of biochar


Correspondence: A. Cross, tel. +44(0)131 651 7165, e-mail: andrew.cross@ed.ac.uk


Biochar is being actively explored as a tool for long-term soil carbon sequestration. However, in order for this to be effective the long-term environmental stability of biochar must be assured. Here, we define and test an accelerated ageing method that seeks to reflect the oxidative nature of biochar degradation in soil. The method was applied to a systematic set of biochar samples produced from sugarcane bagasse, and a set of biochar samples produced from four different biomass sources. The stability of carbon in these samples was found to range between 41.6% and 76.1%, loosely correlating with biochar O : C ratio (r = 0.73). Increasing intensity of oxidative treatment eliminated more carbon. It also increased surface O : C ratio in a manner reported for naturally aged charcoal samples. The method effectively discriminated biochar produced under contrasting pyrolysis conditions and could be used as a proxy for environmental ageing of approximately 100 years under temperate conditions.