Potential of Pyrolyzed Organic Matter in Soil Amelioration
Bruno Glaser, Johannes Lehmann, Christoph Steiner, Thomas Nehls,
Muhammad Yousaf and Wolfgang Zech, 12th ISCO Conference Beijing 2002


Black carbon in a temperate mixed-grass savanna
X. Daia, T.W. Boutton a,*, B. Glaser b, R.J. Ansley c, W. Zech b
Soil Biology & Biochemistry 37 (2005) 1879

Black carbon in soils: The use of benzene polycarboxylic acids as specific indicators

Bruno Glaser, Ludwig Haumaier, Georg Guggenberger and Wolfgang Zech

Institute of Soil Science, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Germany. Fax: ++49-921-552246. Email:

Mitteilungen der Deutschen Bodenkundlichen Gesellschaft (1997) 85: 237 - 240

1. Introduction

Black carbon (BC) is formed during incomplete combustion of biomass. Being highly resistant to microbial and chemical oxidation, it is considered to be a significant sink in the global carbon cycle. Most likely, it is also a source of stable aromatic carbon in soils.

The 'Terra Preta' phenomenon: a model for sustainable agriculture in the humid tropics
Bruno Glaser, Ludwig Haumaier, Georg Guggenberger, Wolfgang Zech
Journal Naturwissenschaften,Springer Berlin/Heidelberg
Issue Volume 88, Number 1 / February, 2001


Many soils of the lowland humid tropics are thought to be too infertile to support sustainable agriculture. However, there is strong evidence that permanent or semi-permanent agriculture can itself create sustainably fertile soils known as 'Terra Preta' soils. These soils not only contain higher concentrations of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium, but also greater amounts of stable soil organic matter. Frequent findings of charcoal and highly aromatic humic substances suggest that residues of incomplete combustion of organic material (black carbon) are a key factor in the persistence of soil organic matter in these soils. Our investigations showed that 'Terra Preta' soils contained up to 70 times more black carbon than the surrounding soils. Due to its polycyclic aromatic structure, black carbon is chemically and microbially stable and persists in the environment over centuries. Oxidation during this time produces carboxylic groups on the edges of the aromatic backbone, which increases its nutrient-holding capacity. We conclude that black carbon can act as a significant carbon sink and is a key factor for sustainable and fertile soils, especially in the humid tropics.

Amazonian Dark Earths: Origin, Properties, Management
Johannes Lehmann, Dirse C. Kern, Bruno Glaser, William I. Woods

This book publication emerged from a meeting in Benicassim, Spain, in 2001. A group of enthusiastic scientists from diverse backgrounds decided that it is time to present a comprehensive overview over research on the so-called "Terra Preta de Indio", or Amazonian Dark Earths. Authors were invited to cover a wide variety of aspects around these fascinating soils, and met what became the first International Workshop on Terra Preta de Indio, in Manaus in July 2002. The frequent interactions and the workshop meeting ensured that this publication became a major text book on Amazonian Dark Earths. It is published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in The Netherlands

Table of Contents


Foreword, by W. Sombroek

Chapter 1: Development of Anthrosol Research, by W.I. Woods

Chapter 2: Historical Perspectives on Amazonian Dark Earths, by T.P. Myers, W.M. Denevan, A. Winklerprins, A. Porro

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