Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 1347–1352 | Cite as

Biochar promotes methane production at high acetate concentrations in anaerobic soils

  • Leilei Xiao
  • Fanghua LiuEmail author
  • Hengduo Xu
  • Dawei Feng
  • Jinchao Liu
  • Guangxuan Han
Original Paper


Methane (CH4) is a major greenhouse gas emitted by the industry, agriculture and natural processes such as degradation of organic matter in anaerobic waters and soils. Addition of biochars to soils has been investigated to control greenhouse gas emission, but actually there are still current conflicting views: do biochars promote or suppress greenhouse gas emissions? In particular, the role of acetate, a product of organic matter degradation and substrate of methanogenesis, is poorly known. Here, we studied the effect of acetate concentrations on CH4 production by soils amended with biochar. Results show that biochar decreased CH4 release at low acetate concentration, below 0.2 mM. Gompertz modeling reveals that CH4 production rate can be reduced by up to 26.2% by biochar application. In apparent conflict, results show also that biochar stimulated methanogenesis at higher acetate concentrations, above 2 mM. Moreover, the application of CH3F, an inhibitor of acetoclastic methanogenesis, demonstrated that biochar mildly strengthened acetoclastic methanogenesis, thus confirming that biochar favors methane production. 13C isotope analysis demonstrated that CH4 is derived from direct acetate cleavage when the methanogenic substrate, e.g., acetate, was relatively abundant. Data from 16S rRNA sequencing suggest that CH4 is produced by the metabolism of Methanosarcinaceae. This work provides extra perspective that promotion or suppression of CH4 release by biochar may depend on acetate concentration in terrestrial methanogenic environments.


Anaerobic soil Biochar Acetate concentration CH4 production Acetoclastic methanogenesis Methanosarcinaceae 



The authors would like to thank prof. Eric Lichtfouse for polishing title and abstract of this paper. We thank Dr. Gang Xu from Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences for his gift of biochar used in this study. This research was financially supported by the NSFC (no. 41703075, 91751112 and 41573071), the Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province (no. JQ201608 and ZR2016DQ12) and the Young Taishan Scholars Program (No. tsqn20161054).

Supplementary material

10311_2019_863_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1592 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Coastal Biology and Biological Resources Utilization, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesYantaiChina
  2. 2.Laboratory for Marine Biology and BiotechnologyQingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and TechnologyQingdaoChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Coastal Environmental Processes and Ecological Remediation, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesYantaiChina

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