Measured and modelled effect of land‐use change from temperate grassland to Miscanthus on soil carbon stocks after 12 years

Amanda J Holder*, John Clifton-Brown, Rebecca Rowe, Paul Robson, Dafydd Elias, Marta Dondini, Niall P McNamara, Iain S Donnison, Jon P McCalmont

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Soil organic carbon (SOC) is an important carbon pool susceptible to land-use change (LUC). There are concerns that converting grasslands into the C4 bioenergy crop Miscanthus (to meet demands for renewable energy) could negatively impact SOC, resulting in reductions of greenhouse gas mitigation benefits gained from using Miscanthus as a fuel. This work addresses these concerns by sampling soils (0-30 cm) from a site 12 years (T12) after conversion from marginal agricultural grassland into Miscanthus x giganteus and four other novel Miscanthus hybrids. Soil samples were analysed for changes in below-ground biomass, SOC and Miscanthus contribution to SOC (using a 13C natural abundance approach). Findings are compared to ECOSSE soil carbon model results (run for a LUC from grassland to Miscanthus scenario and continued grassland counterfactual), and wider implications are considered in the context of life cycle assessments based on the heating value of the dry matter (DM) feedstock. The mean T12 SOC stock at the site was 8 (±1 standard error) Mg C/ha lower than baseline time zero stocks (T0), with assessment of the five individual hybrids showing that while all had lower SOC stock than at T0 the difference was only significant for a single hybrid. Over the longer term, new Miscanthus C4 carbon replaces pre-existing C3 carbon, though not at a high enough rate to completely offset losses by the end of year 12. At the end of simulated crop lifetime (15 years), the difference in SOC stocks between the two scenarios was 4 Mg C/ha (5 g CO2-eq/MJ). Including modelled LUC-induced SOC loss, along with carbon costs relating to soil nitrous oxide emissions, doubled the greenhouse gas intensity of Miscanthus to give a total global warming potential of 10 g CO2-eq/MJ (180 kg CO2-eq/Mg DM).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1173-1186
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Volume11
Issue number10
Early online date21 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

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Miscanthus
soil carbon
carbon sinks
soil organic carbon
land use change
grasslands
grassland
Organic carbon
Soils
Carbon
organic carbon
soil
carbon
carbon dioxide
greenhouse gases
Land use
soil sampling
Miscanthus giganteus
Greenhouse gases
dry matter

Keywords

  • bioenergy
  • land-use change
  • life cycle assessment
  • Miscanthus
  • pasture
  • Soil organic carbon
  • GREENHOUSE-GAS EMISSIONS
  • X-GIGANTEUS
  • TURNOVER
  • TILLAGE
  • ORGANIC-MATTER
  • soil organic carbon
  • SEQUESTRATION
  • MITIGATION
  • WALES
  • ENERGY CROPS
  • ENGLAND

Cite this

Measured and modelled effect of land‐use change from temperate grassland to Miscanthus on soil carbon stocks after 12 years. / Holder, Amanda J; Clifton-Brown, John; Rowe, Rebecca; Robson, Paul; Elias, Dafydd; Dondini, Marta; McNamara, Niall P; Donnison, Iain S; McCalmont, Jon P.

In: Global Change Biology. Bioenergy, Vol. 11, No. 10, 10.2019, p. 1173-1186.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Holder, AJ, Clifton-Brown, J, Rowe, R, Robson, P, Elias, D, Dondini, M, McNamara, NP, Donnison, IS & McCalmont, JP 2019, 'Measured and modelled effect of land‐use change from temperate grassland to Miscanthus on soil carbon stocks after 12 years', Global Change Biology. Bioenergy, vol. 11, no. 10, pp. 1173-1186. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcbb.12624
Holder, Amanda J ; Clifton-Brown, John ; Rowe, Rebecca ; Robson, Paul ; Elias, Dafydd ; Dondini, Marta ; McNamara, Niall P ; Donnison, Iain S ; McCalmont, Jon P. / Measured and modelled effect of land‐use change from temperate grassland to Miscanthus on soil carbon stocks after 12 years. In: Global Change Biology. Bioenergy. 2019 ; Vol. 11, No. 10. pp. 1173-1186.
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abstract = "Soil organic carbon (SOC) is an important carbon pool susceptible to land-use change (LUC). There are concerns that converting grasslands into the C4 bioenergy crop Miscanthus (to meet demands for renewable energy) could negatively impact SOC, resulting in reductions of greenhouse gas mitigation benefits gained from using Miscanthus as a fuel. This work addresses these concerns by sampling soils (0-30 cm) from a site 12 years (T12) after conversion from marginal agricultural grassland into Miscanthus x giganteus and four other novel Miscanthus hybrids. Soil samples were analysed for changes in below-ground biomass, SOC and Miscanthus contribution to SOC (using a 13C natural abundance approach). Findings are compared to ECOSSE soil carbon model results (run for a LUC from grassland to Miscanthus scenario and continued grassland counterfactual), and wider implications are considered in the context of life cycle assessments based on the heating value of the dry matter (DM) feedstock. The mean T12 SOC stock at the site was 8 (±1 standard error) Mg C/ha lower than baseline time zero stocks (T0), with assessment of the five individual hybrids showing that while all had lower SOC stock than at T0 the difference was only significant for a single hybrid. Over the longer term, new Miscanthus C4 carbon replaces pre-existing C3 carbon, though not at a high enough rate to completely offset losses by the end of year 12. At the end of simulated crop lifetime (15 years), the difference in SOC stocks between the two scenarios was 4 Mg C/ha (5 g CO2-eq/MJ). Including modelled LUC-induced SOC loss, along with carbon costs relating to soil nitrous oxide emissions, doubled the greenhouse gas intensity of Miscanthus to give a total global warming potential of 10 g CO2-eq/MJ (180 kg CO2-eq/Mg DM).",
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T1 - Measured and modelled effect of land‐use change from temperate grassland to Miscanthus on soil carbon stocks after 12 years

AU - Holder, Amanda J

AU - Clifton-Brown, John

AU - Rowe, Rebecca

AU - Robson, Paul

AU - Elias, Dafydd

AU - Dondini, Marta

AU - McNamara, Niall P

AU - Donnison, Iain S

AU - McCalmont, Jon P

N1 - Funding information Aberystwyth University; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Grant/Award Number: BB/CSP1730/1 and BBS/E/W/10963A01B; European Commission FACCE SURPLUS ERA‐ NET MISCOMAR, Grant/Award Number: 652615; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Grant/Award Number: EP/M013200/1; Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Grant/Award Number: NF0426

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N2 - Soil organic carbon (SOC) is an important carbon pool susceptible to land-use change (LUC). There are concerns that converting grasslands into the C4 bioenergy crop Miscanthus (to meet demands for renewable energy) could negatively impact SOC, resulting in reductions of greenhouse gas mitigation benefits gained from using Miscanthus as a fuel. This work addresses these concerns by sampling soils (0-30 cm) from a site 12 years (T12) after conversion from marginal agricultural grassland into Miscanthus x giganteus and four other novel Miscanthus hybrids. Soil samples were analysed for changes in below-ground biomass, SOC and Miscanthus contribution to SOC (using a 13C natural abundance approach). Findings are compared to ECOSSE soil carbon model results (run for a LUC from grassland to Miscanthus scenario and continued grassland counterfactual), and wider implications are considered in the context of life cycle assessments based on the heating value of the dry matter (DM) feedstock. The mean T12 SOC stock at the site was 8 (±1 standard error) Mg C/ha lower than baseline time zero stocks (T0), with assessment of the five individual hybrids showing that while all had lower SOC stock than at T0 the difference was only significant for a single hybrid. Over the longer term, new Miscanthus C4 carbon replaces pre-existing C3 carbon, though not at a high enough rate to completely offset losses by the end of year 12. At the end of simulated crop lifetime (15 years), the difference in SOC stocks between the two scenarios was 4 Mg C/ha (5 g CO2-eq/MJ). Including modelled LUC-induced SOC loss, along with carbon costs relating to soil nitrous oxide emissions, doubled the greenhouse gas intensity of Miscanthus to give a total global warming potential of 10 g CO2-eq/MJ (180 kg CO2-eq/Mg DM).

AB - Soil organic carbon (SOC) is an important carbon pool susceptible to land-use change (LUC). There are concerns that converting grasslands into the C4 bioenergy crop Miscanthus (to meet demands for renewable energy) could negatively impact SOC, resulting in reductions of greenhouse gas mitigation benefits gained from using Miscanthus as a fuel. This work addresses these concerns by sampling soils (0-30 cm) from a site 12 years (T12) after conversion from marginal agricultural grassland into Miscanthus x giganteus and four other novel Miscanthus hybrids. Soil samples were analysed for changes in below-ground biomass, SOC and Miscanthus contribution to SOC (using a 13C natural abundance approach). Findings are compared to ECOSSE soil carbon model results (run for a LUC from grassland to Miscanthus scenario and continued grassland counterfactual), and wider implications are considered in the context of life cycle assessments based on the heating value of the dry matter (DM) feedstock. The mean T12 SOC stock at the site was 8 (±1 standard error) Mg C/ha lower than baseline time zero stocks (T0), with assessment of the five individual hybrids showing that while all had lower SOC stock than at T0 the difference was only significant for a single hybrid. Over the longer term, new Miscanthus C4 carbon replaces pre-existing C3 carbon, though not at a high enough rate to completely offset losses by the end of year 12. At the end of simulated crop lifetime (15 years), the difference in SOC stocks between the two scenarios was 4 Mg C/ha (5 g CO2-eq/MJ). Including modelled LUC-induced SOC loss, along with carbon costs relating to soil nitrous oxide emissions, doubled the greenhouse gas intensity of Miscanthus to give a total global warming potential of 10 g CO2-eq/MJ (180 kg CO2-eq/Mg DM).

KW - bioenergy

KW - land-use change

KW - life cycle assessment

KW - Miscanthus

KW - pasture

KW - Soil organic carbon

KW - GREENHOUSE-GAS EMISSIONS

KW - X-GIGANTEUS

KW - TURNOVER

KW - TILLAGE

KW - ORGANIC-MATTER

KW - soil organic carbon

KW - SEQUESTRATION

KW - MITIGATION

KW - WALES

KW - ENERGY CROPS

KW - ENGLAND

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DO - 10.1111/gcbb.12624

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EP - 1186

JO - Global Change Biology. Bioenergy

JF - Global Change Biology. Bioenergy

SN - 1757-1693

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ER -