Publications

NIBIOs employees contribute to several hundred scientific articles and research reports every year. You can browse or search in our collection which contains references and links to these publications as well as other research and dissemination activities. The collection is continously updated with new and historical material.

2022

To document

Abstract

Sorption of nutrients such as NH4+ is often quoted as a critical property of biochar, explaining its value as a soil amendment and a filter material. However, published values for NH4+ sorption to biochar vary by more than 3 orders of magnitude, without consensus as to the source of this variability. This lack of understanding greatly limits our ability to use quantitative sorption measurements towards product design. Here, our objective was to conduct a quantitative analysis of the sources of variability, and infer which biochar traits are more favourable to high sorption capacity. To do so, we conducted a standardized remodelling exercise of published batch sorption studies using Langmuir sorption isotherm. We excluded studies presenting datasets that either could not be reconciled with the standard Langmuir sorption isotherm or generated clear outliers. Our analysis indicates that the magnitude of sorption capacity of unmodified biochar for NH4+ is lower than previously reported, with a median of 4.2 mg NH4+ g−1 and a maximum reported sorption capacity of 22.8 mg NH4+ g−1. Activation resulted in a significant relative improvement in sorption capacity, but absolute improvements remain modest, with a maximum reported sorption of 27.56 mg NH4+ g−1 for an activated biochar. Methodology appeared to substantially impact sorption estimates, especially practices such as pH control of batch sorption solution and ash removal. Our results highlight some significant challenges in the quantification of NH4+ sorption by biochar and our curated data set provides a potentially valuable scale against which future estimates can be assessed.

Abstract

Heat Field Deformation (HFD) is a widely used method to measure sap flow of trees based on empirical relationships between heat transfer within tree stems and the sap flow rates. As an alternative, the Linear Heat Balance (LHB) method implements the same instrumental configuration as HFD but calculates the sap flow rates using analytical equations that are derived from fundamental conduction-convection heat transfer theories. In this study, we systematically compared the sap flow calculated using the two methods based on data that were recorded using the same instrument. The measurements were conducted on four Norway spruce trees. We aimed to evaluate the discrepancies between the sap flow estimates from the two methods and determine the underlying causes. Diurnal and day-to-day patterns were consistent between the sap flow estimates from the two methods. However, the magnitudes of the estimated sap flow were different between them, where LHB resulted in much lower estimates in three trees and slightly higher estimates in one compared to HFD. We also observed larger discrepancies in negative (reversed flow) than in positive sap flow, where the LHB resulted in lower reversed flow than HFD. Consequently, the seasonal budget estimated by LHB can be as low as ∼20% of that estimated by HFD. The discrepancies can be mainly attributed to the low wood thermal conductivities for the studied trees that lead to substantial underestimations using the LHB method. In addition, the sap flow estimates were very sensitive to the value changes of the empirical parameters in the calculations and, thus, using a proper case-specific value is recommended, especially for the LHB method. Overall, we suggest that, despite the strong theoretical support, the correctness of LHB outputs depends largely on the tree individuals and should be carefully evaluated.

Abstract

Forests sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) which is important for climate mitigation. Net ecosystem production (NEP) varies significantly across forests in different regions depending on the dominant tree species, stand age, and environmental factors. Therefore, it is important to evaluate forest NEP and its potential changes under climate change in different regions to inform forestry policy making. Norway spruce (Picea abies) is the most prevalent species in conifer forests throughout Europe. Here, we focused on Norway spruce forests and used eddy covariance-based observations of CO2 fluxes and other variables from eight sites to build a XGBoost machine learning model for NEP estimation. The NEP values from the study sites varied between −296 (source) and 1253 (sink) g C m−2 yr−1. Overall, among the tested variables, air temperature was the most important factor driving NEP variations, followed by global radiation and stand age, while precipitation had a very limited contribution to the model. The model was used to predict the NEP of mature Norway spruce forests in different regions within Europe. The NEP median value was 494 g C m−2 yr−1 across the study areas, with higher NEP values, up to >800 g C m−2 yr−1, in lower latitude regions. Under the “middle-of-the-road” SSP2-4.5 scenario, the NEP values tended to be greater in almost all the studied regions by 2060 with the estimated median of NEP changes in 2041–2060 to be +45 g C m−2 yr−1. Our results indicate that Norway spruce forests show high productivity in a wide area of Europe with potentially future NEP enhancement. However, due to the limitations of the data, the potential decrease in NEP induced by temperature increases beyond the photosynthesis optima and frequent ecosystem disturbances (e.g., drought, bark beetle infestation, etc.) still needs to be evaluated.

Abstract

As a way to estimate evapotranspiration (ET), Heat Field Deformation (HFD) is a widely used method to measure sap flow of trees based on empirical relationships between heat transfer within tree stems and the sap flow rates. As an alternative, the Linear Heat Balance (LHB) method implements the same instrumental configuration as HFD but calculates the sap flow rates using analytical equations that are derived from fundamental conduction-convection heat transfer equations.

To document

Abstract

Background Biochar-based fertilizer products (BCF) have been reported to increase both crop yield and N-use efficiency. Such positive effects are often assumed to result from the slow-release of N adsorbed on BCF structures. However, a careful review of the literature suggests that actual mechanisms remain uncertain, which hampers the development of efficient BCF products. Scope Here, we aim at reviewing BCF mechanisms responsible for enhanced N uptake by plants, and evaluate the potential for further improvement. We review the capacity of biochar structures to adsorb and release N forms, the biochar properties supporting this effect, and the methods that have been proposed to enhance this effect. Conclusions Current biochar products show insufficient sorption capacity for the retention of N forms to support the production of slow-release BCFs of high enough N concentration. Substantial slow-release effects appear to require conventional coating technology. Sorption capacity can be improved through activation and additives, but currently not to the extent needed for concentrated BCFs. Positive effects of commercial BCFs containing small amount of biochar appear to result from pyrolysis-derived biostimulants. Our review highlights three prospects for improving N retention: 1) sorption of NH3 gas on specifically activated biochar, 2) synergies between biochar and clay porosities, which might provide economical sorption enhancement, and 3) physical loading of solid N forms within biochar. Beyond proof of concept, quantitative nutrient studies are needed to ascertain that potential future BCFs deliver expected effects on both slow-release and N use efficiency.