Coffee Hour: Armen R. Kemanian "The Soil Carbon Balance, Nitrous Oxide Emissions, and Biofuels"

Friday, October 24, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

The Soil Carbon Balance, Nitrous Oxide Emissions, and Biofuels


About the talk

Biofuels can reduce the carbon footprint per unit of energy used, a feature that is particularly attractive for liquid transportation. Nonetheless, the broad sustainability of biofuels in that regard depends on two factors. First, that the reduction in greenhouse gas emission can be quantified and be less than that of the fossil fuel being replaced. This analysis needs to consider the entire supply and co-product chain for both the biofuels and fossil fuel. Second, that other ecosystem services are not negatively affected, for instance, due to land use change, if food or bioenergy production expands into forests or natural grasslands. Some of these services are not accounted for in the so-called Life Cycle Assessments. In this coffee hour, I focus on the models of soil carbon and nitrous oxide emission that need to be used when direct monitoring of carbon storage of nitrous oxide flux is not feasible – which is to say, most of the time. Models range from simple emission factors to relatively sophisticated, but not necessarily accurate, process-based simulation models. These are discussed in the context of land use change to accommodate the potentially growing production of biofuels.


Suggested reading

Plevin et al 2014. Using Attributional Life Cycle Assessment to Estimate Climate‐Change Mitigation Benefits Misleads Policy Makers. J. of Industrial Ecology, 18, 73-83.


Kemanian et al 2011. Integrating soil carbon cycling with that of nitrogen and phosphorus in the watershed model SWAT: theory and model testing. Ecological Modelling, 222, 1913-1921.


About the speaker

Armen KemanianArmen R. Kemanian is an assistant professor of production systems and modeling in the Department of Plant Science.  Kemanian attempted briefly to become a soccer player and failed, which lead to a career in academe.  His research program addresses topics from soil and plant processes, in particular nitrogen and carbon cycling and the determination in water use efficiency of plants, to field and landscape scale processes affected by agriculture. Kemanian supports two simulation models, CropSyst and Cycles, which are used in both academe and the private sector.  In addition, Kemanian teaches the courses Environmental Biophysics, Principles of Crop Production, and Models in Agricultural and Natural Systems.


Angela Rogers