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Black Carbon Contribution to Organic Carbon Stocks in Urban Soil

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Elisa Lopez-Capel, Professor David ManningORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


ABSTRACT: Soil holds 75% of the total organic carbon (TOC) stock in terrestrial ecosystems. This comprises ecosystem-derived organic carbon (OC) and black carbon (BC), a recalcitrant product of the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. Urban topsoils are often enriched in BC from historical emissions of soot and have high TOC concentrations, but the contribution of BC to TOC throughout the urban soil profile, at a regional scale is unknown. We sampled 55 urban soil profiles across the North East of England, a region with a history of coal burning and heavy industry. Through combined elemental and thermogravimetic analyses, we found very large total soil OC stocks (31−65 kg m−2 to 1 m), exceeding typical values reported for UK woodland soils. BC contributed 28−39% of the TOC stocks, up to 23 kg C m−2 to 1 m, and was affected by soil texture. The proportional contribution of the BC-rich fraction to TOC increased with soil depth, and was enriched in topsoil under trees when compared to grassland. Our findings establish the importance of urban ecosystems in storing large amounts of OC in soils and that these soils also capture a large proportion of BC particulates emitted within urban areas.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Edmondson JL, Stott I, Potter J, Lopez-Capel E, Manning DAC, Gaston KJ, Leake JR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Science and Technology

Year: 2015

Volume: 49

Issue: 14

Pages: 8339–8346

Print publication date: 21/07/2015

Online publication date: 26/06/2015

Acceptance date: 11/06/2015

Date deposited: 25/08/2015

ISSN (print): 0013-936X

ISSN (electronic): 1520-5851

Publisher: American Chemical Society


DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b00313


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