Potential analysis of the application of anthropogenic dark earth to reduce GHG emissions and further positive effects

Project description

Climate change leads to increasingly frequent extreme weather events in Germany. Especially the long periods without rainfall and increasing temperatures are a major threat to urban trees and agricultural areas. Because of the long dry periods, the plant cycle is in danger of losing necessary physical and chemical soil properties (nutrient availability, water absorption and storage capacity, etc.).

To protect plants and trees from the negative climatic conditions caused by climate change, anthropogenically produced dark earth can be used to improve soil properties, to permanently store carbon in the soil, and to induce further positive side effects. Dark, very fertile soil that contains high levels of nutrients and organic matter as well as proportions of pyrogenic carbon is referred to as dark earth.

This pyrogenic carbon is a result of the thermochemical conversion of organic substances and comprises high levels of carbon in the form of stable compounds. Combined with inorganic substances, such as ashes and minerals, and organic materials (biomass waste, manure, bones, excrement), microorganisms can be used for metabolization and humification, which provides dark earth with its positive properties.

In the framework of a potential analysis, the aim is, on the one hand, to determine the quantities of carbon or CO2 equivalents that can be permanently stored in the soil in Germany using anthropogenic dark earth. On the other hand, the potential contribution of anthropogenic dark earth in the national climate protection concept is to be determined. Agriculture, green spaces, trees in urban areas, and forestry are being investigated as areas of application. In addition, the potentials of the production and use of dark earth with regard to further effects – e.g., the contribution to decentralized energy supply, on biodiversity, and further soil properties such as yield – are to be identified.

The content-related objectives are to be achieved within the framework of student theses through a joint supervision by project partners from different disciplines.


Jens Buchgeister
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-26720