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Title: Soil carbon sequestration and land use change associated with biofuel production: empirical evidence

ORCiD logo [1];  [1];  [2];  [3];  [4]
  1. Energy Systems Division, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass Avenue Argonne IL 60439 USA
  2. Environment and Production Technology Division, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2033K St. NW Washington DC 20006 USA
  3. Energy Resources Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1309 South Halsted Street Chicago IL 60607 USA
  4. Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1102 South Goodwin Avenue Urbana IL 61801 USA
Publication Date:
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
Grant/Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Publisher's Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Global Change Biology. Bioenergy
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 8; Journal Issue: 1; Related Information: CHORUS Timestamp: 2017-10-20 17:11:03; Journal ID: ISSN 1757-1693
Country of Publication:
United Kingdom

Citation Formats

Qin, Zhangcai, Dunn, Jennifer B., Kwon, Hoyoung, Mueller, Steffen, and Wander, Michelle M. Soil carbon sequestration and land use change associated with biofuel production: empirical evidence. United Kingdom: N. p., 2015. Web. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12237.
Qin, Zhangcai, Dunn, Jennifer B., Kwon, Hoyoung, Mueller, Steffen, & Wander, Michelle M. Soil carbon sequestration and land use change associated with biofuel production: empirical evidence. United Kingdom. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12237.
Qin, Zhangcai, Dunn, Jennifer B., Kwon, Hoyoung, Mueller, Steffen, and Wander, Michelle M. 2015. "Soil carbon sequestration and land use change associated with biofuel production: empirical evidence". United Kingdom. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12237.
title = {Soil carbon sequestration and land use change associated with biofuel production: empirical evidence},
author = {Qin, Zhangcai and Dunn, Jennifer B. and Kwon, Hoyoung and Mueller, Steffen and Wander, Michelle M.},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {10.1111/gcbb.12237},
journal = {Global Change Biology. Bioenergy},
number = 1,
volume = 8,
place = {United Kingdom},
year = 2015,
month = 3

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record at 10.1111/gcbb.12237

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 20works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

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  • Soil organic carbon (SOC) change can be a major impact of land use change (LUC) associated with biofuel feedstock production. By collecting and analyzing data from worldwide field observations with major LUCs from cropland, grassland and forest to lands producing biofuel crops (i.e., corn, switchgrass, Miscanthus, poplar and willow), we were able to estimate SOC response ratios and sequestration rates and evaluate the effects of soil depth and time scale on SOC change. Both the amount and rate of SOC change were highly dependent on the specific land transition. Irrespective of soil depth or time horizon, cropland conversions resulted inmore » an overall SOC gain of 6-14% relative to initial SOC level, while conversion from grassland or forest to corn (without residue removal) or poplar caused significant carbon loss (9-35%). No significant SOC changes were observed in land converted from grasslands or forests to switchgrass, Miscanthus or willow. The SOC response ratios were similar in both 0-30 and 0-100 cm soil depths in most cases, suggesting SOC changes in deep soil and that use of top soil only for SOC accounting in biofuel life cycle analysis (LCA) might underestimate total SOC changes. Soil carbon sequestration rates varied greatly among studies and land transition types. Generally, the rates of SOC change tended to be the greatest during the 10 years following land conversion, and had declined to approach 0 within about 20 years for most LUCs. Observed trends in SOC change were generally consistent with previous reports. Soil depth and duration of study significantly influence SOC change rates and so should be considered in carbon emission accounting in biofuel LCA. High uncertainty remains for many perennial systems, field trials and modeling efforts are needed to determine the site- and system-specific rates and direction of change associated with their production.« less
  • The use of marginal lands (MLs) for biofuel production has been contemplated as a promising solution for meeting biofuel demands. However, there have been concerns with spatial location of MLs, their inherent biofuel potential, and possible environmental consequences with the cultivation of energy crops. Here, we developed a new quantitative approach that integrates high-resolution land cover and land productivity maps and uses conditional probability density functions for analyzing land use patterns as a function of land productivity to classify the agricultural lands. We subsequently applied this method to determine available productive croplands (P-CLs) and non-crop marginal lands (NC-MLs) in amore » nine-county Southern Michigan. Furthermore, Spatially Explicit Integrated Modeling Framework (SEIMF) using EPIC (Environmental Policy Integrated Climate) was used to understand the net energy (NE) and soil organic carbon (SOC) implications of cultivating different annual and perennial production systems.« less
  • The quantification of sources and sinks of carbon from land use and land cover changes (LULCC) is uncertain. We investigated how the parametrization of LULCC and of organic matter decomposition, as well as initial land cover, affects the historical and future carbon fluxes in an Earth System Model (ESM). Using the land component of the Max Planck Institute ESM, we found that the historical (1750–2010) LULCC flux varied up to 25% depending on the fraction of biomass which enters the atmosphere directly due to burning or is used in short-lived products. The uncertainty in the decadal LULCC fluxes of themore » recent past due to the parametrization of decomposition and direct emissions was 0.6 Pg C yr $-$1, which is 3 times larger than the uncertainty previously attributed to model and method in general. Preindustrial natural land cover had a larger effect on decadal LULCC fluxes than the aforementioned parameter sensitivity (1.0 Pg C yr $-$1). Regional differences between reconstructed and dynamically computed land covers, in particular, at low latitudes, led to differences in historical LULCC emissions of 84–114 Pg C, globally. This effect is larger than the effects of forest regrowth, shifting cultivation, or climate feedbacks and comparable to the effect of differences among studies in the terminology of LULCC. Finally, in general, we find that the practice of calibrating the net land carbon balance to provide realistic boundary conditions for the climate component of an ESM hampers the applicability of the land component outside its primary field of application.« less
  • The Huang-Hai Plain in northeast China has been cultivated for thousands of years and is the most productive wheat growing region in the country. Its agricultural future will be determined in large part by how global climatic changes affect regional conditions and by the actions China takes to mitigate or adapt to climate change impacts. One potential mitigation strategy is to promote soil carbon (C) sequestration, which would improve soil quality while simultaneously contributing to the mitigation of climate change. The IPCC estimates that 40 Pg of C could be sequestered in cropland soils worldwide over the next century. Heremore » we assess the potential for soil C sequestration with conversion of a conventional till (CT) continuous wheat system to a wheat-corn double cropping system and by implementing no till (NT) management for both continuous wheat and wheat-corn systems. To assess the influence of these management changes under a changing climate, we use two climate change scenarios at two time periods in the EPIC agro-ecosystem simulation model. The applied climate change scenarios are from the HadCM3 Global Climate Model for the time periods 2015-2045 and 2070-2099. The HadCM3 model projects that both temperature and precipitation will increase throughout the next century with increases of greater than 5 °C and up to 300 mm possible by 2099. An increase in the variability of temperature is also projected and is, accordingly, applied in the simulations. The EPIC model indicates that winter wheat yields would increase on average by 0.2 Mg ha-1 in the 2030 period and by 0.8 Mg ha-1 in the 2085 period due largely to the warmer nighttime temperatures and higher precipitation projected by the HadCM3 model. Simulated yields were not significantly affected by imposed changes in crop management. Simulated soil organic C content was higher under both NT management and double cropping than under CT continuous wheat. Soil C sequestration rates for continuous wheat systems were increased by 0.5 Mg ha-1 yr-1 by NT in the 2030 period and by 0.4 Mg ha-1 yr-1 in the 2085 period. With wheat-corn double cropping, NT increased sequestration rates by 1.3 and 1.0 Mg ha-1 yr-1 in 2030 and 2085, respectively. The total C offset due to a shift to NT management over 16 million hectares of agricultural land on the Huang-Hai Plain is 240 to 180 Tg C for continuous wheat management in 2030 and 2085, respectively and 675 to 495 Tg C for wheat-corn double cropping in 2030 and 2085, respectively.« less