Redesigning soils

The challenge

Small amounts of CO2, methane and other fossil fuel emissions have an outsized impact on global warming. Although they exist at only low concentrations in the atmosphere – around just 0.04% in the case of CO2 and 0.00017% for methane – they are nevertheless exceptionally good at trapping heat. Yet the low concentrations and the chemical nature of these compounds makes them difficult to filter out of the atmosphere. To address this challenge, researchers at NZI are developing engineered approaches to Carbon Removal via soil sequestration of carbon.

 

Why this research is valuable

Fossil fuel emissions are a major contributor to climate change, which is causing weather extremes and habitat loss and poses a threat to human health, food and water supplies and economic growth. International thought leaders including the IPCC, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Swiss Re Institute and the Oxford Offsetting Principles, recognise Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) as a critical strategy for reducing harmful CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

As the largest body of terrestrial carbon, soils are widely recognised as an important sink for atmospheric carbon. Our work seeks to improve the persistence of soil carbon by advancing our understanding of carbon sequestration in soils and ultimately redesigning better soils that can maintain higher levels of carbon.

 

Research areas

  • Implementing methods to quantify soil carbon and thus verify increased CO2sequestration by soils.
  • Developing methods for increasing carbon in soil via DAC leading to high CO2cropping (increasing biomass capture), understanding microbial processes and soil mediated by nanomaterials and improving the retention of carbon as microbial necromass adsorbed into nanomaterials.

 

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