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Biochar Workshop

Funded by Terraffirm

The Problem

The 2020 wildfire season vividly confirmed what climate scientists and fire managers have long predicted: climate change is creating weather and fuel conditions conducive to frequent, large-scale, high-intensity wildfires or "megafires."  Fuels reduction treatments are necessary to reduce extreme wildfire risks, but there are problems with conventional non-commercial fuels reduction methods, too.

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Mechanical fuel reduction with heavy machinery

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Manuel fuel clearing in Whistler, Canada

Mechanical fuels reduction methods with heavy equipment are very expensive, depend upon roads (which limits their use on steep slopes or areas that lack roads), cause soil compaction or erosion, remove forest carbon, and burn fossil fuels. Manual fuels treatments are cheaper, and can access steeper slopes lacking road access, but the method of cutting and burning piles has trade-offs. Pile burning can also damage soils, and their smoke emissions not only pollute air quality, but also represent a loss of carbon from the ecosystem.

 

There is a need to treat hazardous fuels in a way that effectively reduces wildfire risks without causing adverse environmental impacts on natural resource or ecosystem values and which does not result in net carbon loss from the ecosystem. 

The Solution

The problems and needs outlined above will be addressed through a project to educate and advocate for the use of biochar production in hazardous fuels reduction treatments. Biochar treats woody biomass to produce charcoal rather than smoke and ash, and this charcoal can preserve carbon for an extremely long time,  hundreds or even thousands of years.

 

Instead of extracting the material using mechanical treatments that requires burning fossil fuels or simply burning it in slash piles that release carbon into the atmosphere, the byproduct of biochar greatly reduces the flammability of a site while also enhancing carbon storage in the soil. Soils enriched with biochar supply more nutrients and retain more water, improving plant productivity in ways that increase their ability to sequester and store even more carbon.

This project will consist of three interrelated sets of activities and deliverables intended to advance goals in education, advocacy, and research for biochar fuels treatments:​

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Training Workshop in Biochar Production with the Carloni Kiln

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Promoting Small-Scale Biochar with Multimedia Materials and Media

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Research into the Effective Use of Biochar

The Impact

The project will deliver the following outputs and expected outcomes. First, the initial workshop will train up to two dozen participants in biochar techniques with the use of the Carloni kiln. They will be expected to train others in their communities. Second, the workshop will be recorded by a videographer and photographers who will develop short educational videos and other illustrated print and online materials intended to promote biochar production as part of fuels reduction activities. Third, the Carloni kiln will be field tested and a simple research project to record data on in-situ carbon storage will be initiated.  

We expect that additional rural residents and regional groups will be inspired to adopt biochar techniques in local fuels treatments as part of wildfire risk reduction, climate change mitigation, and ecosystem restoration goals. An additional outcome will be a network of small-scale biochar producers participating in coordinated longitudinal research on biochar methods.

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Carloni Kiln in use

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