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ENVS part of 124 million DKK project on biochar


"To help solve the climate crisis; and do it in an environmentally safe way where the soil quality and biodiversity is preserved – that’s inspiring to be a part of.” Aarhus University’s Environmental Science, Ecoscience, and Agroecology Departments will each be contributing to a 124 million DKK project that will be launching this August, together with 14 other partners. The funds awarded for the SkyClean Scale-up Project were granted by the Danish Energy Agency (Energistyrelsen) as part of a wider initiative to reduce GHG in agriculture.

The SkyClean project focuses on the processing of waste fiber into biochar and green gas. The development of the pyrolysis technology and the upscaling of the plant is expected to absorb 2600 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere yearly through the production of biochar. The biochar produced can then be added to agricultural soils, replenishing the diminishing carbon stock in the soil and sequestering carbon for long term storage. 

With the increasingly urgent need for innovation and new climate tech to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the widespread adoption of this practice promises to make great progress in tackling climate change. However, as with any new practices and solutions, there is a risk that there may be unintended consequences. 

Soil ecosystems are often challenged in agricultural settings, and the preservation of soil health and biodiversity is of high priority in the move towards more sustainable practices. At present, the understanding of the impact of biochar on soil microorganisms and microfauna is insufficient, and could have both positive and negative impacts. 

Here at The Department of Environmental Science, Anne Winding and Rumakanta Sapkota will set out to understand how the addition of biochar to Danish soils affects microorganisms and soil invertebrates, in collaboration with Marianne Bruus, an ecotoxicologist at the Department of Ecoscience, Lars Elsgaard, a soil process microbiologist at Agroecology, and scientists at KU. More knowledge on the impacts of biochar on the soil biome will ensure that this new climate mitigation tool is applied with attention and respect towards the wider ecosystem.