A review of biochars' potential role in the remediation, revegetation and restoration of contaminated soils

Environ Pollut. 2011 Dec;159(12):3269-82. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2011.07.023. Epub 2011 Aug 19.


Biochars are biological residues combusted under low oxygen conditions, resulting in a porous, low density carbon rich material. Their large surface areas and cation exchange capacities, determined to a large extent by source materials and pyrolysis temperatures, enables enhanced sorption of both organic and inorganic contaminants to their surfaces, reducing pollutant mobility when amending contaminated soils. Liming effects or release of carbon into soil solution may increase arsenic mobility, whilst low capital but enhanced retention of plant nutrients can restrict revegetation on degraded soils amended only with biochars; the combination of composts, manures and other amendments with biochars could be their most effective deployment to soils requiring stabilisation by revegetation. Specific mechanisms of contaminant-biochar retention and release over time and the environmental impact of biochar amendments on soil organisms remain somewhat unclear but must be investigated to ensure that the management of environmental pollution coincides with ecological sustainability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Agriculture
  • Charcoal / chemistry*
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / instrumentation
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / methods*
  • Soil Pollutants / chemistry*


  • Soil Pollutants
  • biochar
  • Charcoal