Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 717–730 | Cite as

Biochar-induced changes in soil properties affected immobilization/mobilization of metals/metalloids in contaminated soils

  • Mahtab Ahmad
  • Sang Soo Lee
  • Sung Eun Lee
  • Mohammad I. Al-Wabel
  • Daniel C. W. Tsang
  • Yong Sik Ok
Biochar for a Sustainable Environment



Remediation of metal contaminated soil with biochar is attracting extensive interest in recent years. Understanding the significance of variable biochar properties and soil types helps elucidating the meticulous roles of biochar in immobilizing/mobilizing metals/metalloids in contaminated soils.

Materials and methods

Six biochars were produced from widely available agricultural wastes (i.e., soybean stover, peanut shells and pine needles) at two pyrolysis temperatures of 300 and 700 °C, respectively. The Pb-, Cu-, and Sb-contaminated shooting range soils and Pb-, Zn-, and As-contaminated agricultural soils were amended with the produced biochars. The mobility of metals/metalloids was assessed by the standard batch leaching test, principal component analysis and speciation modeling.

Results and discussion

The changes in soil properties were correlated to feedstock types and pyrolysis temperatures of biochars based on the principal component analysis. Biochars produced at 300 °C were more efficient in decreasing Pb and Cu mobility (>93 %) in alkaline shooting range soil via surface complexation with carboxyl groups and Fe-/Al-minerals of biochars as well as metal-phosphates precipitation. By contrast, biochars produced at 700 °C outperformed their counterparts in decreasing Pb and Zn mobility (100 %) in acidic agricultural soil by metal-hydroxides precipitation due to biochar-induced pH increase. However, Sb and As mobility in both soils was unfavorably increased by biochar amendment, possibly due to the enhanced electrostatic repulsion and competition with phosphate.


It is noteworthy that the application of biochars is not equally effective in immobilizing metals or mobilizing metalloids in different soils. We should apply biochar to multi-metal contaminated soil with great caution and tailor biochar production for achieving desired outcome and avoiding adverse impact on soil ecosystem.


Bioavailability Black carbon Charcoal Plant biomass Soil contamination Soil remediation 



This study was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2015R1A2A2A11001432).

Supplementary material

11368_2015_1339_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mahtab Ahmad
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sang Soo Lee
    • 1
  • Sung Eun Lee
    • 3
  • Mohammad I. Al-Wabel
    • 2
  • Daniel C. W. Tsang
    • 4
  • Yong Sik Ok
    • 1
  1. 1.Korea Biochar Research CenterKangwon National UniversityChuncheonKorea
  2. 2.Soil Sciences Department, College of Food and Agricultural SciencesKing Saud UniversityRiyadhKingdom of Saudi Arabia
  3. 3.School of Applied BiosciencesKyungpook National UniversityDaeguKorea
  4. 4.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringHong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloonChina

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