Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Cristina Santín; Stefan H. Doerr; Evan S. Kane; Caroline A. Masiello; Mikael Ohlson; Jose Maria de la Rosa; Caroline M. Preston; Thorsten Dittmar
    Date: 2015
    Source: Global Change Biology
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Northern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1017.0 KB)


    The production of pyrogenic carbon (PyC; a continuum of organic carbon (C) ranging from partially charred biomass and charcoal to soot) is a widely acknowledged C sink, with the latest estimates indicating that ~50% of the PyC produced by vegetation fires potentially sequesters C over centuries. Nevertheless, the quantitative importance of PyC in the global C balance remains contentious, and therefore, PyC is rarely considered in global C cycle and climate studies. Here we examine the robustness of existing evidence and identify the main research gaps in the production, fluxes and fate of PyC from vegetation fires. Much of the previous work on PyC production has focused on selected components of total PyC generated in vegetation fires, likely leading to underestimates. We suggest that global PyC production could be in the range of 116–385 Tg C yr -1, that is ~0.2–0.6% of the annual terrestrial net primary production. According to our estimations, atmospheric emissions of soot/black C might be a smaller fraction of total PyC (<2%) than previously reported. Research on the fate of PyC in the environment has mainly focused on its degradation pathways, and its accumulation and resilience either in situ (surface soils) or in ultimate sinks (marine sediments). Off-site transport, transformation and PyC storage in intermediate pools are often overlooked, which could explain the fate of a substantial fraction of the PyC mobilized annually. We propose new research directions addressing gaps in the global PyC cycle to fully understand the importance of the products of burning in global C cycle dynamics.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Santín, Cristina; Doerr, Stefan H.; Kane, Evan S.; Masiello, Caroline A.; Ohlson, Mikael; de la Rosa, Jose Maria; Preston, Caroline M.; Dittmar, Thorsten. 2015. Towards a global assessment of pyrogenic carbon from vegetation fires. Global Change Biology. 22(1): 76-91.


    Google Scholar


    biochar, black carbon, carbon accounting, carbon emissions, carbon sequestration, charcoal, dissolved organic carbon, erosion, pyrogenic organic matter, wildfire

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page