Global charcoal mobilization from soils via dissolution and riverine transport to the oceans

Science. 2013 Apr 19;340(6130):345-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1231476.


Global biomass burning generates 40 million to 250 million tons of charcoal every year, part of which is preserved for millennia in soils and sediments. We have quantified dissolution products of charcoal in a wide range of rivers worldwide and show that globally, a major portion of the annual charcoal production is lost from soils via dissolution and subsequent transport to the ocean. The global flux of soluble charcoal accounts to 26.5 ± 1.8 million tons per year, which is ~10% of the global riverine flux of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). We suggest that the mobilization of charcoal and DOC out of soils is mechanistically coupled. This study closes a major gap in the global charcoal budget and provides critical information in the context of geoengineering.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Charcoal / analysis*
  • Oceans and Seas*
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Soil / analysis
  • Soil / chemistry*


  • Soil
  • Charcoal