Advertisement

A social-ecological system evaluation to implement sustainably a biochar system in South India

  • Stefanie Müller
  • Norman Backhaus
  • Prakash Nagabovanalli
  • Samuel AbivenEmail author
Research Article

Abstract

Biochar has been proposed as a technology to mitigate climate change as well as improving soil fertility, energy production, and organic waste treatment. However, the implementation of such techniques in existing cropping systems requires knowledge about potential adaptation barriers. These adaptation barriers are only partly dependent on expected benefits but are deeply embedded in the place-specific settings and livelihood practices of agricultural communities. An integration of adaptation barriers in the development of biochar system designs has the potential not only to facilitate farmer’s decision but also to enhance community resilience and reduce their vulnerability. We propose a holistic methodology that considers communities as social-ecological systems. We applied this approach to agricultural communities in two villages with different cropping systems in South India. First, we modeled the social-ecological system of each village, based on qualitative interviews with local farmers, using cognitive mapping. Second, we tested the implementation scenarios of two types of biochar system designs (small-/large-scale) and a worst-case failure scenario, which were developed by triangulating theoretical information from literature review with information from qualitative interviews and focus groups. Third, we analyzed the outcome on the resilience and vulnerability of the social-ecological systems to define the place-specific adaptation barriers. We were able to successfully capture for the first time the adaptation barriers of two communities concerning a biochar system implementation. We could show that sustainable biochar system designs not only differ depending on site but also demonstrate particularly the relevance of procedural processes independent of site, such as maintenance of autonomy, provision of participation in planning, or promotion of farmers’ cooperatives with regional industries. We are certain that this approach could be used for the setting up of future biochar systems or novel technology in general not only in tropical regions but elsewhere.

Keywords

Biochar Agricultural practices Implementation Social-ecological systems Cognitive maps 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Foremost, we thank all the local interviewees proving us with valuable information. Further, we thank the staff of the Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India for their hospitality and their efforts in enabling local contacts and Rajani Mandhyam Chennu for her excellent translation work.

Funding information

The InnoPool Fund of the Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland provided financial support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Abiven S, Schmidt MWI, Lehmann J (2014) Biochar by design. Nat Geosci 7:326 EP.  https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2154 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adger WN (2006) Vulnerability. Glob Environ Chang 16:268–281.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.02.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adger WN, Kelly PM (1999) Social vulnerability to climate change and the architecture of entitlements. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 4:253–266.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009601904210 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amjath Babu TS (2008) Economic and environmental impacts of political non-cooperative strategies in water management: an analysis of prospective policies in the Cauvery River basin of India. Dissertation, Justus-Liebig University GiessenGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrow CJ (2012) Biochar: potential for countering land degradation and for improving agriculture. Appl Geogr 34:21–28.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2011.09.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berrouet LM, Machado J, Villegas-Palacio C (2018) Vulnerability of socio—ecological systems: a conceptual framework. Ecol Indic 84:632–647.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.07.051 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Camps-Arbestain M, Amonette JE, Singh B, Wang T, Schmidt HP (2015) A biochar classification system and associated test methods. In: Lehmann J, Joseph S (eds) Biochar for environmental management: science, technology and implementation. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, London and New York, pp 165–193Google Scholar
  8. Coomes OT, Miltner BC (2017) Indigenous charcoal and biochar production: potential for soil improvement under shifting cultivation systems. Land Degrad Dev 28:811–821.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ldr.2500 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crane-Droesch A, Abiven S, Jeffery S, Torn MS (2013) Heterogeneous global crop yield response to biochar: a meta-regression analysis. Environ Res Lett 8:44049.  https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/044049 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ding Y, Liu Y, Liu S, Li Z, Tan X, Huang X, Zeng G, Zhou L, Zheng B (2016) Biochar to improve soil fertility. A review. Agron Sustain Dev 36:1856.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-016-0372-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duku MH, Gu S, Hagan EB (2011) Biochar production potential in Ghana—a review. Renew Sust Energ Rev 15:3539–3551.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2011.05.010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eden C (1994) Cognitive mapping and problem structuring for system dynamics model building. Syst Dyn Rev 10:257–276.  https://doi.org/10.1002/sdr.4260100212 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Frausin V, Fraser JA, Narmah W, Lahai MK, Winnebah TRA, Fairhead J, Leach M (2014) “God made the soil, but we made it fertile”: gender, knowledge, and practice in the formation and use of African dark earths in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Hum Ecol 42:695–710.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9686-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gallopín GC (2006) Linkages between vulnerability, resilience, and adaptive capacity. Glob Environ Chang 16:293–303.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.02.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Glaser B, Lehmann J, Zech W (2002) Ameliorating physical and chemical properties of highly weathered soils in the tropics with charcoal - a review. Biol Fertil Soils 35:219–230.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00374-002-0466-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gray SRJ, Gagnon AS, Gray SA, O’Dwyer B, O’Mahony C, Muir D, Devoy RJN, Falaleeva M, Gault J (2014) Are coastal managers detecting the problem?: assessing stakeholder perception of climate vulnerability using fuzzy cognitive mapping. Ocean Coast Manag 94:74–89.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2013.11.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gwenzi W, Chaukura N, Mukome FND, Machado S, Nyamasoka B (2015) Biochar production and applications in sub-Saharan Africa: opportunities, constraints, risks and uncertainties. J Environ Manag 150:250–261.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.11.027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jeffery S, Bezemer TM, Cornelissen G, Kuyper TW, Lehmann J, Mommer L, Sohi SP, van de Voorde TFJ, Wardle DA, van Groenigen JW (2015) The way forward in biochar research: targeting trade-offs between the potential wins. GCB Bioenergy 7:1–13.  https://doi.org/10.1111/gcbb.12132 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jeffery S, Abalos D, Prodana M, Bastos AC, van Groenigen JW, Hungate BA, Verheijen F (2017) Biochar boosts tropical but not temperate crop yields. Environ Res Lett 12:53001.  https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa67bd CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Latawiec A, Królczyk J, Kuboń M, Szwedziak K, Drosik A, Polańczyk E, Grotkiewicz K, Strassburg B (2017) Willingness to adopt biochar in agriculture: the producer’s perspective. Sustainability 9:655.  https://doi.org/10.3390/su9040655 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leach M, Fairhead J, Fraser J (2012) Green grabs and biochar: revaluing African soils and farming in the new carbon economy. J Peasant Stud 39:285–307.  https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2012.658042 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lehmann J, Joseph S (2015) Biochar for environmental management: an introduction. In: Lehmann J, Joseph S (eds) Biochar for environmental management: science, technology and implementation. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, London and New York, pp 1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McHenry MP (2009) Agricultural bio-char production, renewable energy generation and farm carbon sequestration in Western Australia: certainty, uncertainty and risk. Agric Ecosyst Environ 129:1–7.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2008.08.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mekuria W, Getnet K, Noble A, Hoanh CT, McCartney M, Langan S (2013) Economic valuation of organic and clay-based soil amendments in small-scale agriculture in Lao PDR. Field Crop Res 149:379–389.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2013.05.026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Moser CON (1998) The asset vulnerability framework: reassessing urban poverty reduction strategies. World Dev 26:1–19.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0305-750X(97)10015-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mukherjee A, Lal R (2014) The biochar dilemma. Soil Res 52:217.  https://doi.org/10.1071/SR13359 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Özesmi U, Özesmi SL (2004) Ecological models based on people’s knowledge: a multi-step fuzzy cognitive mapping approach. Ecol Model 176:43–64.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2003.10.027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Robert M, Thomas A, Bergez J-E (2016) Processes of adaptation in farm decision-making models. A review. Agron Sustain Dev 36:21.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-016-0402-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Shackley S, Carter S, Sims K, Sohi S (2011) Expert perceptions of the role of biochar as a carbon abatement option with ancillary agronomic and soil-related benefits. Energy Environ 22:167–187.  https://doi.org/10.1260/0958-305X.22.3.167 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Smit B, Wandel J (2006) Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Glob Environ Chang 16:282–292.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.03.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sohi S, McDonagh J, Novak J, Weixiang W, Miu L-M (2015) Biochar systems and system fit. In: Lehmann J, Joseph S (eds) Biochar for environmental management: science, technology and implementation. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, London and New York, pp 737–761Google Scholar
  32. Spokas KA, Cantrell KB, Novak JM, Archer DW, Ippolito JA, Collins HP, Boateng AA, Lima IM, Lamb MC, McAloon AJ, Lentz RD, Nichols KA (2012) Biochar: a synthesis of its agronomic impact beyond carbon sequestration. J Environ Qual 41:973–989.  https://doi.org/10.2134/jeq2011.0069 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Tang Q, Bennett SJ, Xu Y, Li Y (2013) Agricultural practices and sustainable livelihoods: rural transformation within the Loess Plateau, China. Appl Geogr 41:15–23.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2013.03.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Thiault L, Marshall P, Gelcich S, Collin A, Chlous F, Claudet J (2018) Mapping social-ecological vulnerability to inform local decision making. Conserv Biol 32:447–456.  https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12989 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Vanwindekens FM, Baret PV, Stilmant D (2014) A new approach for comparing and categorizing farmers’ systems of practice based on cognitive mapping and graph theory indicators. Ecol Model 274:1–11.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2013.11.026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Swiss Federal Research Institute WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Soil Science and Agricultural ChemistryUniversity of Agricultural SciencesBangaloreIndia

Personalised recommendations