Combating climate change with biochar in beautiful Bangladesh

University of Toronto
Canada
EcologyEarth Science
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/6198
$4,052
Raised
155%
Funded on 1/08/16
Successfully Funded
  • $4,052
    pledged
  • 155%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 1/08/16

About This Project

“Biochar”, or charcoal used as a soil amendment, has been recently heralded in its ability to improve poor soil conditions such as leaching, acidification, and contamination, while directly mitigating climate change by increasing carbon sequestration. We plan to combat climate change using biochar in beautiful Bangladesh, a delta country vulnerable to climate change. We strive to increase productivity across land-use types: primary forests, secondary forests, agroforestry, and agriculture.

Ask the Scientists

Join The Discussion

What is the context of this research?

Significant plant responses to biochar have been observed in many agricultural studies, with typical biomass increases of 10 – 25%. However, the potential of biochar to enhance plant growth and productivity in the context of forestry and agroforestry is underexplored. A recently published review, and results from a nursery experiment in Bangladesh show larger growth responses for trees, with an average responses of around 40%.

We want to expand on these findings by setting up long-term field plots with biochar amendments across different land use types. We will measure physiological traits responsible for performance and resource use to help determine the mechanisms responsible for growth effects. We will also measure soil fluxes of methane and carbon dioxide, two potent greenhouse gases.

What is the significance of this project?

Combating climate change is everyone’s responsibility. Many western nations are only beginning to notice small effects of climate change, whereas in Bangladesh the impacts are severe and daily: flooding, extreme heat and drought, powerful storms, and salinity intrusion. Biochar is a climate change mitigation technology with great promise, supported by hundreds of studies that document increased system productivity with an overall net negative carbon impact. This project represents the chance to fight climate change on the front lines.

This work will additionally fill the current knowledge gaps in our understanding of plant responses to biochar by describing plant physiological responses, and in our understanding of tropical soil greenhouse gas fluxes .

What are the goals of the project?


  • Set up 20 x 20 m plots across 4 important land-use types: primary forest, secondary forest, agroforestry, and agriculture, at Khadimnagar National Park in Sylhet, Bangladesh. Three replicate plots of control (no biochar) and biochar applied at 10 t / ha (locally, indigenously produced) will be used for each land-use type. (April - May)
  • Install soil nutrient resin- exchange root simulator probes.
  • Train students and assistants on instrumentation and scientific techniques.
  • Measure “early” plant growth and physiological responses, greenhouse gas fluxes, and soil nutrient availability. (May)
  • Give lectures and community workshops highlighting traditional and other low-tech methods to produce biochar from organic waste materials and explaining its potential benefits.

Budget

Please wait...

The funding requested covers a portion of the total projected project costs (> $5000) - we are also applying for several other grants, but these are not guaranteed, and these funds will be awarded later than needed. The amount requested is the very minimum necessary to initiate this project.

A critical component of this project is purchasing biochar made by the Khashia. This biochar is made through traditional “pit-and-mound” methods and is the same currently in use in the region.

Power in Bangladesh is unreliable, so a gas generator will be used to power equipment and charge batteries. We will need to purchase gasoline for the generator.

We plan to fly to Dhaka and initiate this project in April - May.

Stretch goals:

We would like to hire students from surrounding universities, and local inhabitants, to assist us in implementing these plots. We'll need to transport char and use GPS to map plots. We'd also like to add more plots which means purchasing more char!

Endorsed by

This is a highly viable project in the face of climate change mitigation in the protected areas of Bangladesh. Recent studies suggest that the rare and endangered tree species of Bangladesh will face extinction risk from climate change. Therefore, introducing biochar as a means for carbon sequestration strategy in the primary forests of Bangladesh would be very interesting in the conservation ecology field.
This project represents a strong partnership between the University of Toronto and the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, working toward the common goal of climate change mitigation. We are excited about the using biochar as a means to increase productivity, and look forward to many fruitful research projects.
The proposed project will be one of the first comparative studies to explore plant physiological responses to biochar across a range of tropical systems including agroforestry. Biochar as an amendment in agroforestry systems is an exciting approach to combat climate change and improve livelihoods for local communities. This is an enthusiastic research team and an ambitious project with great potential!
Nigel's dissertation research is some of the first to investigate plant physiological responses to biochar and soil charcoal. The proposed project is exciting, and is important to explore uses of biochar outside of agriculture as a means to mitigate climate change. Importantly, this work uses a robust method to measure soil greenhouse gas fluxes in the tropics.
This is an important project. Bangladesh is truly on the front line of global change impacts, and its important to find workable strategies for combat impacts and also contribute to carbon sequestration. Biochar may not be a "magic bullet", but it's an important tool that could really have an impact on global processes and on peoples' livelihoods.

Meet the Team

Nigel Gale
Nigel Gale
PhD Candidate

Affiliates

University of Toronto, Faculty of Forestry
View Profile
Md. Abdul Halim
Md. Abdul Halim
PhD Student || Assistant Professor

Affiliates

PhD Student, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto Assistant Professor, Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Bangladesh
View Profile
Sean Thomas
Sean Thomas
Professor

Affiliates

University of Toronto
View Profile

Nigel Gale

I'm currently pursuing a PhD with Sean Thomas at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Forestry investigating plant growth and physiological responses to biochar in temperate, boreal, and tropical systems.

Serious curiosity and inquiry on the nature of plants began very early in the garden. Much time was additionally spent in Ontario's temperate mixed-wood forests and woodlots. Silviculture was implemented as a means to heat the house, and the forest served as a brilliant recreational space.

As a "grown-up" I'd describe myself as a curious plant and forest ecologist. I'm pre-occupied with fighting climate change and restoring industrialised landscapes.

Md. Abdul Halim

I have been working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Bangladesh. Currently I am on study leave and pursuing my PhD with Dr. Sean Thomas at Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, Canada.

My current research mainly addresses how disturbances in the boreal forest affect the biogeophysical and biogeochemical forcings of climate. I am also interested in biochar-base ecosystem restoration and climate change mitigation approach. I am experienced on working with different aspects of tropical forest ecology and management.

I always felt I have a lot of duty towards nature and people. I found generating knowledge is the most fascinating way to help them while being myself happy!

Sean Thomas


Driven by a curiosity about ecosystems and concern for our planet, I have been an active researcher on forest carbon processes and the comparative biology of trees for some 25 years. Recently my lab has taken a turn to the “dark side” of forest ecology – namely the study of charcoal in forest soils, either added as an amendment (“biochar”) or input through natural fires. My research group is particularly interested in char properties, distribution, their impacts on soil organisms, processes, and forest productivity, and the use of chars in forest restoration. I've worked extensively in developing countries ranging from SE Asia to Africa and the Caribbean.

Additional Information

The benefits of "backing"

everyone: post card from Bangladesh with a photo from the field with team members

$40: We love tea. We'll send you tea from the best plantations in the world, Sylhet, Bangladesh, conveniently located near our field sites. We'll include a steeper too.

$75: We'll name an experimental plot after you! Each plot will have a sign erected: imagine your name on one! That way everyone will know you are fighting climate change.

$100: We'll send you tea, name a plot after you, and also send you a hard-copy "experimental-log" of our research, findings, and adventures!



Project Backers

  • 51Backers
  • 155%Funded
  • $4,052Total Donations
  • $79.45Average Donation
Please wait...