Impact of biomass burning on soil organic carbon and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the coastal savanna ecosystem of Ghana

Parker, Bismark Quarku; Osei, Benjamin A.; Armah, Frederick Ato; Yawson, David Oscar
May 2010
Journal of Renewable & Sustainable Energy;May2010, Vol. 2 Issue 3, p033106
Academic Journal
The impact of escalating human activities on greenhouse gas emission, global warming, and changes in global climate patterns is almost certainly the most discussed issue in the first decade of the 21st century. Two-thirds of Africa’s energy consumption consists of various forms of highly inefficient traditional biomass. In rural areas, low energy consumption is both a cause and consequence of poor development and also of the degradation of the natural environment. The burning of biomass or vegetation as a conventional land preparation method has a net negative impact on the soil organic carbon as well as on the environment through the oxidation of carbon into carbon dioxide, an anthropogenic greenhouse gas. This paper reports the findings of an experiment to investigate the impact of the heat due to burning on soil organic carbon at soil depths of 0–5 and 5–10 cm. It was observed that 21% decline in soil organic carbon resulted in the release of 1446 CO2 kg ha-1 into the atmosphere. This underscores the fact that burning of biomass as a land preparation method may not be sustainable when viewed against the backdrop that the African continent encompasses the most vulnerable regions and populations for current climate variability. This study is significant in that it is the first to shed light on the effects of burning on soil carbon in the coastal savanna ecosystem of Ghana and would potentially provide the impetus for further research.


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