Ecotoxicological characterization of biochars: Role of feedstock and pyrolysis temperature

X. Domene, A. Enders, K. Hanley, J. Lehmann

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79 Citations (Scopus)


Seven contrasting feedstocks were subjected to slow pyrolysis at low (300 or 350°C) and high temperature (550 or 600°C), and both biochars and the corresponding feedstocks tested for short-term ecotoxicity using basal soil respiration and collembolan reproduction tests. After a 28-d incubation, soil basal respiration was not inhibited but stimulated by additions of feedstocks and biochars. However, variation in soil respiration was dependent on both feedstock and pyrolysis temperature. In the last case, respiration decreased with pyrolysis temperature (r=-0.78; p<0.0001, n=21) and increased with a higher volatile matter content (r=0.51; p<0.017), these two variables being correlated (r=-0.86, p<0.0001). Collembolan reproduction was generally unaffected by any of the additions, but when inhibited, it was mostly influenced by feedstock, and generally without any influence of charring itself and pyrolysis temperature. Strong inhibition was only observed in uncharred food waste and resulting biochars. Inhibition effects were probably linked to high soluble Na and NH4 concentrations when both feedstocks and biochars were considered, but mostly to soluble Na when only biochars were taken into account. The general lack of toxicity of the set of slow pyrolysis biochars in this study at typical field application rates (≤20Mgha-1) suggests a low short-term toxicity risk. At higher application rates (20-540Mgha-1), some biochars affected collembolan reproduction to some extent, but only strongly in the food waste biochars. Such negative impacts were not anticipated by the criteria set in currently available biochar quality standards, pointing out the need to consider ecotoxicological criteria either explicitly or implicitly in biochar characterization schemes or in management recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-561
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the total environment
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2015


  • Bioassays
  • Biochar
  • Collembolans
  • Ecotoxicity
  • Fauna
  • Microorganisms
  • Reproduction
  • Soil basal respiration


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