Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 16, Issue 10, pp 2482–2491 | Cite as

Effects of biochar addition to estuarine sediments

  • Gerardo Ojeda
  • Joana Patrício
  • Stefania Mattana
  • Abilio J. F. N. Sobral
Sediments, Sec 5 • Sediment Management • Short Original Communication



Biochar is a carbon-rich product, able to enhance soil fertility and mitigate CO2 emissions. While biochar effects on agriculture are becoming known, its impact elsewhere, e.g., on estuarine ecosystems, has yet to be assessed. The main aim of the present study was to determine the effect of biochar on sediment–water retention, CO2 emissions from sedimentary organic carbon decomposition, sediment pH and electrical conductivity, in aerobic conditions similar to those observed at low tide.

Materials and methods

Sediments from the Mondego Estuary (Portugal) were mixed with pine gasification biochar at different doses (5, 10, 14 %) and immersed in water with different salinity values (15, 25, 30) for 96 h. The influence of biochar on water retention, the residence time of water and CO2 emissions between −0.75 and −1.5 MPa, total organic carbon, pH and electrical conductivity (EC) were determined. Carbon chemical composition and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations were determined in sediments and biochar. Differences between biochar treatments after immersion in different water salinities were analysed using the Kruskal–Wallis test.

Results and discussion

Results showed that biochar was able to (a) increase sediment–water content in terms of quantity and residence time, (b) decrease CO2 emissions, but only with a specific soil–water content and at the highest biochar dose, (c) increase sediment pH at all biochar doses and (d) increase sediment EC at the highest biochar dose. In contrast, the percentage of carbon mineralised was not modified. Biochar carbon was rich in PAHs and less decomposable than sedimentary carbon. The increments observed in sediment pH and EC were unable to change sediment alkaline or saline status according to standard classifications.


Our results suggest that the remarkable water adsorption capacity of biochar–sediment mixtures may be considered the main factor in regulating CO2 emission rates from sediments, together with high PAH concentrations, which probably restrain the organic matter decomposition process.


CO2 emissions PAHs Pine gasification biochar Sediments Water retention 



This research was carried out as part of the SOCARRAT project (contract AGL2009-12343 of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation). The authors wish to thank the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia—the European Social and National Funds (POPH & QREN) (SFRH/BPD/36371/2007) and Universidad Nacional de Colombia at Palmira—Colciencias (FP44842-138-2015) for financial support through the postdoctoral grants to G. Ojeda. We appreciate the study system map (Fig. 1), designed by Z. Teixeira.

Supplementary material

11368_2016_1493_MOESM1_ESM.docx (104 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 104 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerardo Ojeda
    • 1
  • Joana Patrício
    • 2
  • Stefania Mattana
    • 3
  • Abilio J. F. N. Sobral
    • 4
  1. 1.Universidad Nacional de ColombiaPalmiraColombia
  2. 2.MARE-Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and TechnologyUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.CREAFCerdanyola del VallèsSpain
  4. 4.Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences and TechnologyUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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