Project title: Exploration and optimization of a novel negative carbon emission technology using enhanced plant mediated chemical weathering
Researcher: Charilaos Yiotis
Atmospheric greenhouse gasses, in particular carbon dioxide, are increasing at a faster rate than any time in Earth history due to anthropogenic processes such as burning of fossil fuels and land-use change. The rate of CO2 change over the past century far exceeds that associated with the onset and termination of Quaternary and Pennsylvanian glacial-interglacial cycles, the onset of oceanic anoxic events in the Jurassic and Cretaceous and mass extinction events at the Permian-Triassic and Triassic –Jurassic boundary. The scale and rate of global climate change exceeds the current political capacity to decarbonize in order to bring Earth’s atmospheric composition into a stead state. Several geoengineering solutions are being discussed by policy makers to help reduce existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Of these, enhanced chemical weathering offers one theoretical solution of balancing global C emissions by increasing the rate at which plant mediated CO2 helps to weather calcium silicate rocks which in turn increase the rate at which carbonates are deposited in the ocean system. This process sequesters carbon from the atmospheric reservoir into that of the ocean and has potential to temporarily increase C storage in soil (as SOC, soil organic carbon). This project will investigate the C fate in andisol, a soil type naturally 'fertilised' with basaltic volcanic ash, and experimentally explore the sequestration potential of the addition of volcanic ash to Irish grassland crops (model species Lollium perenne) under future climate scenarios (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) as a geoengineering solution.
In the 19th century, the application of basic rock to less fertile granitic soil was widely practiced in places like Brittany, the Rhine valley and southern Italy and basalt was used as a medium for a precursor of hydroponic agriculture on the Azores. At that time, basalt fertilization had wide public acceptance but with the introduction of modern fertilizers, the traditional technique has been lost. To begin the process of testing the public perception of basalt fertilisation, this project will develop the proof of concept of a citizen science project called the ‘Tephra-bag experiment’ in readiness for full scale launch to the Irish public by ICRAG2. The citizen science project will demonstrate to members of the public the concept of geoengineering solutions to climate change with an aim to increase public awareness of global scale technologies that could curb anthropogenic greenhouse gases.