Publications

BPA Exposure May Change Stem Cells, Lower Sperm Production

Read the full story in Environmental Health News

BPA and other estrogenic compounds hamper development of the stem cells responsible for producing sperm in mice, which suggests such exposure could contribute to declining sperm counts in men, according to a new study.

The study, published online today in PLoS Genetics, is the first to suggest that low, brief exposures to bisphenol-A, or other estrogens such as those used in birth control but found as water contaminants, early in life can alter the stem cells responsible for producing sperm later in life.

Are legumes better than fertiliser in developing countries?

Read the full story at EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

Many developing parts of the world – including China, India and Pakistan, as well as much of Central America and North Africa – can’t expect greater agricultural yields from increased nitrogen fertilization without a “disproportionate” cost to the environment. That’s the conclusion of researchers in France and Italy, who say that nitrogen fixation by legumes can be much more efficient on large scales.

Recent biochar research articles

Liang, Yuan; Cao, Xinde; Zhao, Ling; Xu, Xiaoyun; Harris, Willie (2014). “Phosphorus Release from Dairy Manure, the Manure-Derived Biochar, and Their Amended Soil: Effects of Phosphorus Nature and Soil Property.” Journal of Environmental Quality 43:1504–1509. DOI: 10.2134/jeq2014.01.0021

Abstract: Land application of animal manure often risks excessive phosphorus (P) release into the surrounding water. The aim of this study was to convert the dairy manure into biochar, followed by their application into soil, and then to investigate P release from the manure and its derived biochar as well as from the manure- and biochar-amended soil. The results showed that P release was reduced when the manure was converted into biochar due to formation of less-soluble whitlockite [(Ca, Mg)3(PO4)2]. The cumulative P released from biochar over 240 h was 0.26 g kg−1, a 76% reduction of that from the manure (1.07 g kg−1). The kinetic release of P from the manure was determined by the fast desorption process and was better fitted to Elovich equation, whereas P release from biochar was initially controlled by the diffusion process and then by slow but steady dissolution of (Ca,Mg)3(PO4)2, following the parabolic diffusion and linear models, respectively. When the manure or biochar was incorporated into the soil, P release in the CaCl2 and simulated acid rain water extraction from biochar-amended soil was consistently lower than that from the manure-amended soil during 210-d incubation. The lower P release in the biochar-amended soil was determined by stable P form (Ca, Mg)3(PO4)2 in the biochar itself, but less from the soil property effect. Results indicated that initial high P release from manure can be mitigated by converting the manure into biochar.

Eykelbosh AJ, Johnson MS, Santos de Queiroz E, Dalmagro HJ, Guimarães Couto E (2014). Biochar from Sugarcane Filtercake Reduces Soil CO2 Emissions Relative to Raw Residue and Improves Water Retention and Nutrient Availability in a Highly-Weathered Tropical Soil. PLoS ONE 9(6): e98523. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098523

Abstract: In Brazil, the degradation of nutrient-poor Ferralsols limits productivity and drives agricultural expansion into pristine areas. However, returning agricultural residues to the soil in a stabilized form may offer opportunities for maintaining or improving soil quality, even under conditions that typically promote carbon loss. We examined the use of biochar made from filtercake (a byproduct of sugarcane processing) on the physicochemical properties of a cultivated tropical soil. Filtercake was pyrolyzed at 575°C for 3 h yielding a biochar with increased surface area and porosity compared to the raw filtercake. Filtercake biochar was primarily composed of aromatic carbon, with some residual cellulose and hemicellulose. In a three-week laboratory incubation, CO2 effluxes from a highly weathered Ferralsol soil amended with 5% biochar (dry weight, d.w.) were roughly four-fold higher than the soil-only control, but 23-fold lower than CO2 effluxes from soil amended with 5% (d.w.) raw filtercake. We also applied vinasse, a carbon-rich liquid waste from bioethanol production typically utilized as a fertilizer on sugarcane soils, to filtercake- and biochar-amended soils. Total CO2 efflux from the biochar-amended soil in response to vinasse application was only 5% of the efflux when vinasse was applied to soil amended with raw filtercake. Furthermore, mixtures of 5 or 10% biochar (d.w.) in this highly weathered tropical soil significantly increased water retention within the plant-available range and also improved nutrient availability. Accordingly, application of sugarcane filtercake as biochar, with or without vinasse application, may better satisfy soil management objectives than filtercake applied to soils in its raw form, and may help to build soil carbon stocks in sugarcane-cultivating regions.
Hao Sun, Catherine Elizabeth Brewer, Caroline A. Masiello, and Kyriacos Zygourakis (2015). “Nutrient Transport in Soils Amended with Biochar: A transient model with two stationary phases and intraparticle diffusion. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research Just Accepted Manuscript. DOI: 10.1021/ie503893t

Abstract: We present the development of a rate model that simulates nutrient transport in soils amended with biochar. The model considers two stationary adsorbent phases (biochar and soil), axial dispersion, interphase mass transfer and intraparticle diffusion. Langmuir isotherms govern the local equilibria between the solute diffusing in the liquid-filled pores and adsorbed on the pore surfaces of biochar and soil particles. We demonstrate that addition of biochar can effectively slow nutrient transport through the soil if the biochar/soil ratio and crucial biochar properties (like its adsorption capacity and affinity to the sorbate) are carefully matched to the soil properties (water velocity, soil type) and the amount of rainfall or irrigation. Simulations can also track the spatial and temporal evolution of nutrient concentration profiles, information that is essential for analyzing and interpreting experimental data. The new model can be a valuable tool for fine-tuning the production and use of biochar.

Zhang Q-z, Dijkstra FA, Liu X-r, Wang Y-d, Huang J, et al. (2014) Effects of Biochar on Soil Microbial Biomass after Four Years of Consecutive Application in the North China Plain. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102062. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102062

Abstract: The long term effect of biochar application on soil microbial biomass is not well understood. We measured soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and nitrogen (MBN) in a field experiment during a winter wheat growing season after four consecutive years of no (CK), 4.5 (B4.5) and 9.0 t biochar ha−1 yr−1 (B9.0) applied. For comparison, a treatment with wheat straw residue incorporation (SR) was also included. Results showed that biochar application increased soil MBC significantly compared to the CK treatment, and that the effect size increased with biochar application rate. The B9.0 treatment showed the same effect on MBC as the SR treatment. Treatments effects on soil MBN were less strong than for MBC. The microbial biomass C:N ratio was significantly increased by biochar. Biochar might decrease the fraction of biomass N mineralized (KN), which would make the soil MBN for biochar treatments underestimated, and microbial biomass C:N ratios overestimated. Seasonal fluctuation in MBC was less for biochar amended soils than for CK and SR treatments, suggesting that biochar induced a less extreme environment for microorganisms throughout the season. There was a significant positive correlation between MBC and soil water content (SWC), but there was no significant correlation between MBC and soil temperature. Biochar amendments may therefore reduce temporal variability in environmental conditions for microbial growth in this system thereby reducing temporal fluctuations in C and N dynamics.

Keith Jones, Girish Ramakrishnan, Minori Uchimiya, and Alexander Orlov (2015). “New Applications of X-ray Tomography in Pyrolysis of Biomass: Biochar Imaging.” Energy & Fuels Just Accepted Manuscript. DOI: 10.1021/ef5027604.

Abstract: We report on the first ever use of non-destructive micrometer-scale synchrotron-computed microtomography (CMT) for biochar material characterization as a function of pyrolysis temperature. This innovative approach demonstrated an increase in micron-sized marcropore fraction of the Cotton Hull (CH) sample, resulting in up to 29% sample porosity. We have also found that initial porosity development occurred at low temperatures (below 350°C) of pyrolysis, consistent with chemical composition of CH. This innovative technique can be highly complementary to traditional BET measurements, considering that Barrett-Joyner-Halenda (BJH) analysis of pore size distribution cannot detect these macropores. Such information can be of substantial relevance to environmental applications, given that water retention by biochars added to soils is controlled by macropore characteristic among the other factors. Complementing our data with SEM, EDX and XRF characterization techniques allowed us to develop a better understanding of evolution of biochar properties during its production, such presence of metals and initial morphological features of biochar before pyrolysis. These results have significant implications for using biochar as a soil additive and for clarifying the mechanisms of biofuel production by pyrolysis.

Focusing on lasting legacy prompts environmental action

Read the full story in Science Daily.

Prompting people to think about the legacy they want to leave for future generations can boost their desire and intention to take action on climate change, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Citation for full paper: L. Zaval, E. M. Markowitz, E. U. Weber. How Will I Be Remembered? Conserving the Environment for the Sake of One’s Legacy. Psychological Science, 2015; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614561266

Scrap Tire Resources

This post updates Scrap Tire Markets in the United States, from December 2006.

The Rubber Manufacturer’s Association’s web site has a wealth of information on scrap tires, including:

RMA also publishes a summary of the U.S. Scrap Tire Market, the most recent of which is for 2013.

Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication

Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication leads to a better understanding of American responses to climate change and explains how anyone, from religious leaders, to health care professionals, businesspeople, community leaders, journalists, scientists, educators, policymakers, and other interested parties, can better communicate with and engage the American public on the issue.

The guide, which includes research from a range of social science fields including psychology, anthropology, communications, and behavioral economics, is designed to be useful for experienced and novice communicators alike. Included in the guide are strategies to boost engagement, common mistakes to avoid, and best practices that organizations have used to meaningfully engage individuals and groups on climate change.

The real social cost of carbon: $220 per ton, report finds

Read the full story at GreenBiz.com.

How much does each ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere really cost us?

Whether you’re a corporate executive penciling out the costs of new emissions-reduction strategies or a government regulator evaluating the feasibility of a carbon tax, the idea of putting a concrete price on carbon permeates the field of sustainability.

Now, a new paper by two Stanford University researchers (PDF) contends that current government estimates of the “social cost of carbon” — a key metric of the economic damage caused by climate change used in cost-benefit analysis of regulations — could fall woefully short of reality.