Initial soil C and land-use history determine soil C sequestration under perennial bioenergy crops

Rebecca L. Rowe*, Aidan M. Keith, Dafydd Elias, Marta Dondini, Pete Smith, Jonathan Oxley, Niall P. McNamara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

In the UK and other temperate regions, short rotation coppice (SRC) and Miscanthus x giganteus (Miscanthus) are two of the leading ‘second-generation’ bioenergy crops. Grown specifically as a low-carbon (C) fossil fuel replacement, calculations of the climate mitigation provided by these bioenergy crops rely on accurate data. There are concerns that uncertainty about impacts on soil C stocks of transitions from current agricultural land use to these bioenergy crops could lead to either an under- or overestimate of their climate mitigation potential. Here, for locations across mainland Great Britain (GB), a paired-site approach and a combination of 30-cm- and 1-m-deep soil sampling were used to quantify impacts of bioenergy land-use transitions on soil C stocks in 41 commercial land-use transitions; 12 arable to SRC, 9 grasslands to SRC, 11 arable to Miscanthus and 9 grasslands to Miscanthus. Mean soil C stocks were lower under both bioenergy crops than under the grassland controls but only significant at 0–30 cm. Mean soil C stocks at 0–30 cm were 33.55 ± 7.52 Mg C ha−1 and 26.83 ± 8.08 Mg C ha−1 lower under SRC (P = 0.004) and Miscanthus plantations (P = 0.001), respectively. Differences between bioenergy crops and arable controls were not significant in either the 30-cm or 1-m soil cores and smaller than for transitions from grassland. No correlation was detected between change in soil C stock and bioenergy crop age (time since establishment) or soil texture. Change in soil C stock was, however, negatively correlated with the soil C stock in the original land use. We suggest, therefore, that selection of sites for bioenergy crop establishment with lower soil C stocks, most often under arable land use, is the most likely to result in increased soil C stocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1046-1060
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Volume8
Issue number6
Early online date16 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016

Fingerprint

energy crops
bioenergy
Land use
carbon sequestration
Crops
land use
Soils
history
crop
Miscanthus
coppice
soil
grasslands
grassland
mitigation
Miscanthus giganteus
climate
plant establishment
fossil fuels
arable soils

Keywords

  • bioenergy
  • Carbon Stocks
  • land-use change
  • Miscanthus
  • soil carbon
  • SRC willow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal

Cite this

Initial soil C and land-use history determine soil C sequestration under perennial bioenergy crops. / Rowe, Rebecca L.; Keith, Aidan M.; Elias, Dafydd; Dondini, Marta; Smith, Pete; Oxley, Jonathan; McNamara, Niall P.

In: Global Change Biology. Bioenergy, Vol. 8, No. 6, 01.11.2016, p. 1046-1060.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Rowe, Rebecca L. ; Keith, Aidan M. ; Elias, Dafydd ; Dondini, Marta ; Smith, Pete ; Oxley, Jonathan ; McNamara, Niall P. / Initial soil C and land-use history determine soil C sequestration under perennial bioenergy crops. In: Global Change Biology. Bioenergy. 2016 ; Vol. 8, No. 6. pp. 1046-1060.
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N1 - Acknowledgements We are exceptionally grateful to all the land owners who have granted us access to sample their fields. Kate Farrall, Jessica Adams, Neil Mullinger, Adam Dargan and Lou Walker for field and laboratory assistance. Pete Henrys (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) for statistical guidance. This work was part of the Ecosystem Land-Use Modelling (ELUM) project, which was commissioned and funded by the Energy Technologies Institute.

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