Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 974–984 | Cite as

Effect of biochar on the extractability of heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn) and enzyme activity in soil

  • Xing Yang
  • Jingjing Liu
  • Kim McGrouther
  • Huagang Huang
  • Kouping LuEmail author
  • Xi Guo
  • Lizhi He
  • Xiaoming Lin
  • Lei Che
  • Zhengqian Ye
  • Hailong WangEmail author
Selected Papers from the 2nd Contaminated Land, Ecological Assessment and Remediation (CLEAR 2014) Conference: Environmental Pollution and Remediation


Biochar is a carbon-rich solid material derived from the pyrolysis of agricultural and forest residual biomass. Previous studies have shown that biochar is suitable as an adsorbent for soil contaminants such as heavy metals and consequently reduces their bioavailability. However, the long-term effect of different biochars on metal extractability or soil health has not been assessed. Therefore, a 1-year incubation experiment was carried out to investigate the effect of biochar produced from bamboo and rice straw (at temperatures ≥500 °C) on the heavy metal (cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn)) extractability and enzyme activity (urease, catalase, and acid phosphatase) in a contaminated sandy loam paddy soil. Three rates (0, 1, and 5 %) and two mesh sizes (<0.25 and <1 mm) of biochar applications were investigated. After incubation, the physicochemical properties, extractable heavy metals, available phosphorus, and enzyme activity of soil samples were analyzed. The results demonstrated that rice straw biochar significantly (P < 0.05) increased the pH, electrical conductivity, and cation exchange capacity of the soil, especially at the 5 % application rate. Both bamboo and rice straw biochar significantly (P < 0.05) decreased the concentration of CaCl2-extractable heavy metals as biochar application rate increased. The heavy metal extractability was significantly (P < 0.01) correlated with pH, water-soluble organic carbon, and available phosphorus in soil. The 5 % application rate of fine rice straw biochar resulted in the greatest reductions of extractable Cu and Zn, 97.3 and 62.2 %, respectively. Both bamboo and rice straw biochar were more effective at decreasing extractable Cu and Pb than removing extractable Cd and Zn from the soil. Urease activity increased by 143 and 107 % after the addition of 5 % coarse and fine rice straw biochars, respectively. Both bamboo and rice straw biochars significantly (P < 0.05) increased catalase activity but had no significant impact on acid phosphatase activity. In conclusion, the rice straw biochar had greater potential as an amendment for reducing the bioavailability of heavy metals in soil than that of the bamboo biochar. The impact of biochar treatment on heavy metal extractability and enzyme activity varied with the biochar type, application rate, and particle size.


Application rate Bioavailability Biochar particle size Contaminated soil Heavy metal extractability Soil enzyme 



This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (4171337), Zhejiang A & F University Research and Development Fund (2010FR097 and 2012FK031), Public Good Science Funding of Zhejiang Provincial Department of Science and Technology (2103C33016), the Science and Technology Foundation of the Guizhou Province, China ([2013]2193), the Scientific Research and Technology Development Foundation of Bijie Yancao Company of Guizhou Province, China (BJYC-201308), and the Special Funding for the Introduced Innovative R&D Team of Dongguan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xing Yang
    • 1
  • Jingjing Liu
    • 1
  • Kim McGrouther
    • 2
  • Huagang Huang
    • 3
  • Kouping Lu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Xi Guo
    • 1
  • Lizhi He
    • 1
  • Xiaoming Lin
    • 4
  • Lei Che
    • 5
  • Zhengqian Ye
    • 1
  • Hailong Wang
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Soil Contamination Bioremediation of Zhejiang ProvinceZhejiang A & F University, Lin’anHangzhouChina
  2. 2.ScionRotoruaNew Zealand
  3. 3.Yancao Production Technology CenterBijie Yancao Company of Guizhou ProvinceBijieChina
  4. 4.Guangdong Dazhong Agriculture Science Co. Ltd.DongguanChina
  5. 5.School of EngineeringHuzhou UniversityHuzhouChina

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