Soil carbon stock impacts following reversion of Miscanthus x giganteus and short rotation coppice willow commercial plantations into arable cropping

Rowe, Rebecca L. ORCID:; Keith, Aidan M. ORCID:; Elias, Dafydd M.O.; McNamara, Niall P. ORCID: 2020 Soil carbon stock impacts following reversion of Miscanthus x giganteus and short rotation coppice willow commercial plantations into arable cropping. Global Change Biology Bioenergy, 12 (9). 680-693.

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There are posited links between the establishment of perennial bioenergy, such as Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow and Miscanthus x giganteus, on low carbon soils and enhanced soil C sequestration. Sequestration provides additional climate mitigation, however, few studies have explored impacts on soil C stocks of bioenergy crop removal, thus the permanence of any sequestered C is unclear. This uncertainty has led some authors to question the handling of soil C stocks with carbon accounting e.g. through LCA. Here we provide additional data for this debate, reporting on the soil C impacts of the reversion (removal and return) to arable cropping of commercial SRC willow and Miscanthus across four sites in the UK, two for each bioenergy crop, with 8 reversions nested within these sites. Using a paired‐site approach, soil C stocks (0–1 m) were compared between 3 and 7 years after bioenergy crop removal. Impacts on soil C stocks varied, ranging from an increase of 70.16 ± 10.81 Mg C ha‐1 7 years after reversion of SRC willow to a decrease of 33.38 ± 5.33 Mg C ha‐1 3 years after reversion of Miscanthus compared to paired arable land. The implications for carbon accounting will depend on the method used to allocate this stock change between current and past land use. However, with, published life cycle assessment values for the lifetime C reduction provided by these crops ranging from 29.50 to 138.55 Mg C ha‐1, the magnitude of these changes in stock are significant. We discuss the potential underlying mechanisms driving variability in soil C stock change, including the age of bioenergy crop at removal, removal methods, and differences in the recalcitrant of the crop residues, and highlight the need to design management methods to limit negative outcomes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1757-1693
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: carbon sequestration, land use change, Miscanthus, perennial bioenergy, reversion, removal, SRC willow
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 16 Jul 2020 15:08 +0 (UTC)

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