Impacts of enhanced weathering on biomass production for negative emission technologies and soil hydrology
Wagner de Oliveira Garcia, Thorben Amann, Jens Hartmann, Kristine Karstens, Alexander Popp, Lena R. Boysen, Pete Smith, and Daniel Goll
Limiting global mean temperature changes to well below 2 ∘C likely requires a rapid and large-scale deployment of negative emission technologies (NETs). Assessments so far have shown a high potential of biomass-based terrestrial NETs, but only a few assessments have included effects of the commonly found nutrient-deficient soils on biomass production. Here, we investigate the deployment of enhanced weathering (EW) to supply nutrients to areas of afforestation–reforestation and naturally growing forests (AR) and bioenergy grasses (BG) that are deficient in phosphorus (P), besides the impacts on soil hydrology. Using stoichiometric ratios and biomass estimates from two established vegetation models, we calculated the nutrient demand of AR and BG. Insufficient geogenic P supply limits C storage in biomass. For a mean P demand by AR and a low-geogenic-P-supply scenario, AR would sequester 119 Gt C in biomass; for a high-geogenic-P-supply and low-AR-P-demand scenario, 187 Gt C would be sequestered in biomass; and for a low geogenic P supply and high AR P demand, only 92 Gt C would be accumulated by biomass. An average amount of ∼150 Gt basalt powder applied for EW would be needed to close global P gaps and completely sequester projected amounts of 190 Gt C during the years 2006–2099 for the mean AR P demand scenario (2–362 Gt basalt powder for the low-AR-P-demand and for the high-AR-P-demand scenarios would be necessary, respectively). The average potential of carbon sequestration by EW until 2099 is ∼12 Gt C (∼0.2–∼27 Gt C) for the specified scenarios (excluding additional carbon sequestration via alkalinity production). For BG, 8 kg basalt m−2 a−1 might, on average, replenish the exported potassium (K) and P by harvest. Using pedotransfer functions, we show that the impacts of basalt powder application on soil hydraulic conductivity and plant-available water, to close predicted P gaps, would depend on basalt and soil texture, but in general the impacts are marginal. We show that EW could potentially close the projected P gaps of an AR scenario and nutrients exported by BG harvest, which would decrease or replace the use of industrial fertilizers. Besides that, EW ameliorates the soil’s capacity to retain nutrients and soil pH and replenish soil nutrient pools. Lastly, EW application could improve plant-available-water capacity depending on deployed amounts of rock powder – adding a new dimension to the coupling of land-based biomass NETs with EW.