Effects of fir-wood biochar on CH4 oxidation rates and methanotrophs in landfill cover soils packed at three different proctor compaction levels

Susan C. Yi*, Anne Heijbroek, Luis Cutz, Stephanie Pillay, Wiebren de Jong, Thomas Abeel, Julia Gebert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Application of biochar to landfill cover soils can purportedly improve methane (CH4) oxidation rates, but understanding the combined effects of soil texture, compaction, and biochar on the activity and composition of the methanotrophs is limited. The amendment of wood biochar on two differently textured landfill cover soils at three compaction levels of the Proctor density was explored by analyzing changes in soil physical properties relevant to methane oxidation, the effects on CH4 oxidation rates, and the composition of the methanotrophic community. Loose soils with and without biochar were pre-incubated to equally elevate the CH4 oxidation rates. Hereafter, soils were compacted and re-incubated. Methane oxidation rates, gas diffusivity, water retention characteristics, and pore size distribution were analyzed on the compacted soils. The relative abundance of methanotrophic bacteria (MOB) was determined at the end of both the pre-incubation and incubation tests of the packed samples. Biochar significantly increased porosity at all compaction levels, enhancing diffusion coefficients. Also, a re-distribution in pore sizes was observed. Increased gas diffusivity from low compaction and amendment of biochar, though, did not reflect higher methane oxidation rates due to high diffusive oxygen fluxes over the limited height of the compacted soil specimens. All soils, with and without biochar, were strongly dominated by Type II methanotrophs. In the sandy soil, biochar amendment strongly increased MOB abundance, which could be attributed to a corresponding increase in the relative abundance of Methylocystis species, while no such response was observed in the clayey soil. Compaction did not change the community composition in either soil. Fir-wood biochar addition to landfill cover soils may not always enhance methanotrophic activity and hence reduce fugitive methane emissions, with the effect being soil-specific. However, especially in finer and more compacted soils, biochar amendment can maintain soil diffusivity above a critical level, preventing the collapse of methanotrophy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number167951
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Biochar
  • Proctor compaction
  • Gas transport
  • Landfill cover soil
  • Methane oxidation
  • Soil properties
  • Pore size distribution
  • Methanotrophs


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