Dr Ed Tanner of the Department of Plant Sciences works in tropical forests to address aspects of biodiversity and global change. His most recent work on diversity was done in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, where he showed that 170 year old secondary forest is almost as diverse as fragments of the remaining natural forest; this is important because it shows that secondary forest can be a significant reservoir of biodiversity.
In a recent project the team evaluated the use of biochar in clay soils in a pot experiment in the Botanic Garden glasshouses. Using barley as a test plant they showed no difference in plant growth even when biochar was 75% of the soil/biochar mix. This shows that at realistic rates of biochar application, maybe concentrations of 10%, biochar will not reduce (or increase) growth in fertile soils, but it would allow biochar to store carbon in a relatively inert form in the soil. This conclusion is now being tested with a field experiment.