Identification of thermal signature and quantification of charcoal in soil using differential scanning calorimetry and benzene polycarboxylic acid (BPCA) markers
- Hardy, B. , Borchard, N. & Leifeld, J. (2022). Identification of thermal signature and quantification of charcoal in soil using differential scanning calorimetry and benzene polycarboxylic acid (BPCA) markers. SOIL, 8: 451–466.
|Title||Identification of thermal signature and quantification of charcoal in soil using differential scanning calorimetry and benzene polycarboxylic acid (BPCA) markers|
|Type of article||Research article|
|Abstract||Black carbon (BC) plays an important role in terrestrial carbon storage and can sustainably improve soil fertility. However, the accurate quantification of BC remains critical to fully unravelling the functions and dynamics of BC in soil. In this study, we explored the potential of differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) to identify, characterize and quantify charcoal in the soil of pre-industrial charcoal kiln sites from various forest and cropland areas in Belgium and Germany. Pre-industrial charcoals and uncharred soil organic matter (SOM) demonstrated a distinct thermal signature that could be used to distinguish between them, with charcoal be- ing more thermally stable than SOM. The DSC pattern of charcoals was characterized by one to three specific exothermic peaks, varying in size and position depending on soil conditions. Our data suggest that the thermal moieties within charcoal depend on the strength of chemical bonds of C atoms (increasing with the degree of aromatic condensation and decreasing with weathering) and on the activation energy required to initiate com- bustion. Despite the specific thermal features of charcoal, its decomposition spans a wide range of temperatures that overlaps with the thermal signature of uncharred SOM. This stresses the challenge of BC quantification in soil and hinders the use of cut-off temperatures to accurately quantify charcoal in soil. Therefore, charcoal- C content was estimated from the relative height of exothermic peaks, attributed either to the combustion of charcoal or SOM. For a selection of 45 soil samples, charcoal-C content estimated by DSC was compared to benzene polycarboxylic acid (BPCA) abundance, a widely used method to quantify BC in soil. The two methods correlated strongly (R2 = 0.97), with BPCA C representing about one-fifth of DSC-derived charcoal C. This reinforces the view that operationally defined BC content has an absolute quantitative value only if the recovery rate is controlled, which is very complicated for many case studies. Overall, our results demonstrate that dynamic thermal analysis is largely under-exploited despite providing quantitatively interpretable information across the continuum of SOM.|
|Authors||Hardy, B., Borchard, N., Leifeld, J.|