Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Linking the Chemical Structure of Black Carbon to its Biological Degradation and Transport Dynamics in a Northern Temperate Forest Soil

Funded by the National Science Foundation

Fire is a major controller of carbon (C) cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, by converting plant biomass to atmospheric CO2 and by contributing incompletely combusted biomass or "black carbon" (BC) to soils. The scientific understanding of the short- and long-term fates of BC in terrestrial ecosystems is incomplete, and a critical knowledge gap exists in our understanding of the fate of BC in the environment. BC, may significantly affect soil C stocks and rates of CO2 exchange of forests with the atmosphere. Through integrated field and laboratory studies, this research will improve understanding of fundamental biological, chemical and physical controls on BC degradation and transport processes in a northern forest soil. This research will link the charring temperature of BC materials to their chemical and physical structures and their resulting decay rates, activity of the main decomposers, enzyme activities, transport dynamics, and stabilization mechanisms in soil.


  • Tim Filley, EAS
  • Jeff Bird, CUNY
  • Knute Nadelhofer, University of Michigan

Contact Information

Purdue University
203 S. Martin Jischke Drive
MANN 105
West Lafayette, IN 47907