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Net mitigation potential of straw return to Chinese cropland: estimation with a full greenhouse gas budget model
- Lu, Fei, Wang, Xiaoke, Han, Bing, Ouyang, Zhiyun, Duan, Xiaonan, Zheng, Hua
- Ecological applications 2010 v.20 no.3 pp. 634-647
- burning, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, cropland, fossil fuels, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, methane, methane production, models, nitrogen fertilizers, nitrous oxide, organic wastes, paddies, pollution control, soil, soil organic carbon, straw, China
- Based on the carbon–nitrogen cycles and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and emission processes related to straw return and burning, a compound greenhouse gas budget model, the “Straw Return and Burning Model” (SRBM), was constructed to estimate the net mitigation potential of straw return to the soil in China. As a full GHG budget model, the SRBM addressed the following five processes: (1) soil carbon sequestration, (2) mitigation of synthetic N fertilizer substitution, (3) methane emission from rice paddies, (4) additional fossil fuel use for straw return, and (5) CH₄ and N₂O emissions from straw burning in the fields. Two comparable scenarios were created to reflect different degrees of implementation for straw return and straw burning. With GHG emissions and mitigation effects of the five processes converted into global warming potential (GWP), the net GHG mitigation was estimated. We concluded that (1) when the full greenhouse gas budget is considered, the net mitigation potential of straw return differs from that when soil carbon sequestration is considered alone; (2) implementation of straw return across a larger area of cropland in 10 provinces (i.e., Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan) will increase net GHG emission; (3) if straw return is promoted as a feasible mitigation measure in the remaining provinces, the total net mitigation potential before soil organic carbon (SOC) saturation will be 71.89 Tg CO₂ equivalent (eqv)/yr, which is equivalent to 1.733% of the annual carbon emission from fossil fuel use in China in 2003; (4) after SOC saturation, only 13 of 21 provinces retain a relatively small but permanent net mitigation potential, while in the others the net GHG mitigation potential will gradually diminish; and (5) the major obstacle to the feasibility or permanence of straw return as a mitigation measure is the increased CH₄ emission from rice paddies. The paper also suggests that comparable scenarios in which all the related carbon–nitrogen cycles are taken into account be created to estimate the mitigation potentials of organic wastes in different utilizations and treatments.