Organic Amendment Effects on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Long-Term Stockpiled Soils

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Francis Zvomuya and Jorden Laskosky, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
In oil sands projects in Alberta, Canada, salvaged soils are often placed in large stockpiles where they are stored for the duration of the project, typically 20-30 years. Alberta regulations require that topsoil and subsoil are salvaged in two distinct operations – a process known as two-lifting. Reclamation using long-term stockpiled soils often gives poor results, characterized by lower soil organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations compared with equivalent natural, undisturbed soils. It is thought that the change from an aerobic to an anaerobic environment during soil stockpiling and back again to aerobic during placement are largely responsible for the low carbon and nitrogen due to microbial activity transforming C and N in the soil into CO2, CH4 and N2O and releasing them to the atmosphere. Evidence from recent studies indicates that biochar improves soil physical, chemical and biological properties, and hence could mitigate C and N losses due to greenhouse gas emissions from the soil indirectly. We postulate that documented improvements in soil physical, chemical, and biological properties in soils treated with amendments such as biochar may help mitigate C and N losses due to greenhouse gas emissions from the soil indirectly. This laboratory incubation experiment tested the effects of differential rates (0, 10, 20, and 40 g biochar carbon equivalents kg-1 dry soil) of biochar, peat, and humalite on greenhouse gas emissions from a 25-year old two-lift stockpiled soil. The soils were fertilized according to standard practice, placed in 120-mL plastic containers, and incubated at 25°C for 45 days. Gas samples were taken at 1- to 7-day intervals and analyzed for CO2, CH4, and N2O. Data on treatment differences in emissions will be presented. Results from this experiment will provide an insight into the potential for organic amendments to mitigate greenhouse gas emission during reclamation using degraded soils.