A-Z Popular Blog Sustainability Search »
Related Guides

What is Biochar?

 , updated on
Biochar is charcoal that is used to sequester carbon and enrich soil. It is produced by burning vegetation in a low-oxygen environment. Biochar has potential to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide at great scale while at the same time increasing agricultural yields1.

How It Works

Biochar is produced by slowly burning vegetation in a low-oxygen environment. This process produces energy, biochar, bio-oil and syngas. Biochar is a fine grained charcoal that can be used to enrich soil. It essentially captures carbon in a state that remains stable for thousands of years. Bio-oil is a fuel that's similar to oil. Syngas contains hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
The point of biochar production is that the biochar captures up to 50% of the carbon in the plants in a form that is both useful and highly stable. Plants capture carbon dioxide from the air but usually release methane and carbon dioxide when they die. Biochar is a way of capturing carbon and locking it away in the soil for thousands of years.
Biochar is naturally found in soil. There is currently about 1,500 gigatons of carbon trapped in soil up to 1 meter in depth. That's more carbon than is currently in the atmosphere.
If biochar were produced at great scale, it could potentially reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide enough to slow global warming.

Terra Preta

Terra Preta is a fertile black soil found in the Amazon Basin that is the result of historical human production of biochar. It was produced because the soil in the region is particularly infertile. The biochar helps the soil to retain water, nutrients and minerals. It also supports the growth of beneficial microorganisms.
Large areas of human produced black soil are also found in England and Sweden.


Global agriculture produces a great deal of excess biomass that is often burned or allowed to decompose releasing methane and carbon dioxide. Additionally, an estimated 200–500 million people globally use slash-and-burn farming methods whereby forest is burned to create a field that is used for a short time. If these two activities were converted to biochar production on a global basis, they would represent a significant carbon sink that could absorb several gigatons of carbon each year.
Overview: Biochar
Carbon Sequestration
Definition (1)
Charcoal that is used to sequester carbon and enrich soil.
Definition (2)
A charcoal that is produced by slowing burning biomass in a low-oxygen environment.
A scalable carbon sequestration technique that produces energy and a valuable soil amendment.
Reasonably low-tech and deployable in developing countries.
Potential Scale
Gigatons of carbon per year
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about sustainability.
Adaptive Reuse
Broken Window Fallacy
Carbon Concrete
Cascading Failure
Circular Economy
Clean Air Zone
Clean Label
Climate Engineering
CO2 Per Capita
Coal Power
Comparative Risk
Creeping Normality
Cultural Lag
Cycle Highway
Deep Water Cooling
Disaster Preparedness
District Heating
Do No Harm
Do Nothing Farming
Dollar Voting
Economic Bad
Electric Boat
Embodied Energy
Environmental Issues
Environmental Justice
Environmental Problems
Existential Risk
Farm Robots
Fertilizer Tree
Fire Ecology
Food Sovereignty
Forest Dieback
Fruit Bagging
Global Change
Global Issues
Global Warming
Green Facade
Green Facades
Green Industry
Green Roof
Green Walls
Happiness Economics
Happiness Index
High-Speed Rail
Holocene Extinction
Human Scale
Jevons Paradox
Keyhole Garden
Keystone Species
Land Footprint
Light Pollution
Living Street
Market Failure
Material Diversity
Missing Market
Moral Hazard
Natural Capital
Natural Resources
Nearly Car Free
Noise Pollution
Ocean Plastic Cleanup
Outside Context Problem
Particulate Matter
Passive Design
Point Of No Return
Precautionary Principle
Product Transparency
Quality Of Life
Race To The Bottom
Rainwater Harvesting
Repair Cafe
Resilient Cities
Right To Know
Safety By Design
Slow Design
Slow Movement
Smart Glass
Social Responsibility
Soft Engineering
Soil Carbon
Space Junk
Sunlight Transport
Sustainable Design
Sustainable Economics
Sustainable Lighting
Sustainable Materials
Tactical Urbanism
Uneconomic Growth
Urban Density
Urban Design
Urban Heat Island
Urban Reforestation
Waste Is Food
Water Security
If you enjoyed this page, please consider bookmarking Simplicable.


(1) Lehmann, Johannes, et al. "Biochar in climate change mitigation." Nature Geoscience 14.12 (2021): 883-892.

Existential Risk

An overview of existential risk.

Precautionary Principle

An overview of the precautionary principle.

Comparative Risk

A definition of comparative risk with examples.

Energy Efficiency

The common types of energy efficiency.

External Stakeholders

The definition of external stakeholder with examples.

Economic Bad

Common examples of an economic bad.


The definition of win-lose with examples.

Climate Engineering

An overview of climate engineering.

Soil Carbon

Why carbon soil is important.

Environmental Issues

A few examples of environmental issues.


An overview of greenwashing.

Global Warming

A definition and brief overview of global warming.

Environmental Justice

The definition of environmental justice with examples.

CO2 Per Capita

A list of countries ranked by CO2 emissions per capita.

Co2 Emissions

Nations ranked by total CO2 emissions

Social Issues

A list of major social issues.

Local Issues

A list of common local issues.

Community Problems

A list of common community problems.

Environmental Problems

A list of common environmental problems.
The most popular articles on Simplicable in the past day.

New Articles

Recent posts or updates on Simplicable.
Site Map