Charcoal degradation - uncertainties about its half life

Tom Miles

Charcoal degradation - uncertainties about its half life
Mariska Evelein, November 15, 2007

A problem I stumbled across today is the half life of charcoal in the

No one seems to have rigorous scientific proof that charcoal is inert, but we
are all assuming it is.

According to the attached peer reviewed article (new directions in black carbon
organic geochemistry, masiello, 2004) there are some serious gaps in how much
black carbon is produced yearly and how much of it we find in the environment,
suggesting there is either a problem with our scientific experiments, or there
are other processes that cause a black carbon loss that we haven't found out
about yet. Even a thousand year life span can't explain the carbon quantities.

Does the fact that we find charcoal in our ancient soils mean that this
represents all the charcoal that was produced at that time? How do we know that
we are not only finding a fraction of what was once there?

I would really like to believe that most the charcoal we put in our soils will
stay there indefinately, but am struggling to do so until I find some peer
reviewed evidence that proofs this.

Can anybody provide me with this?




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