Aquatic resources are in a constant state of fluctuation due to various inputs and outputs from climatological and anthropogenic sources over the course of a year. Runoff can often carry fertilizers from urban lawns and agricultural fields. In the fall, organic debris from the surrounding watershed will begin to accumulate, settle, and release nutrients into the water body. As aquatic biologists, we strive to maintain a healthy nutrient load for any body of water. However, daily and seasonal changes often throw curve balls to the vision of the “ideal” aquatic resource. Fortunately, a naturally produced material called biochar is one of the best low maintenance, low cost, solutions to those unexpected nutrient bursts. Biochar has been around for thousands of years, famously used by ancient tribes in South and Central America.

Biochar is similar to activated charcoal. However, activated charcoal is produced from coal, whereas biochar is produced from wood. Burned in a high heat and low oxygen environment, the wood molecules physically change to become more absorbent with incredibly high surface area. Additionally the product has the benefit of attracting and binding molecules through cation exchange. Biochar absorbs nearly everything through its physical and chemical properties, from heavy metals to the nutrients fueling the algae and vegetation blooms.

Every aquatic resource needs a tailored management plan to address the goals and problems specific to that resource. Many applications exist, but most commonly porous socks that hold the biochar and still allow flow through are placed in areas where ample water is circulated either by wind, fountains, stream inlets, or aerators. The number of socks needed depends on water quality testing and the end goals for the resource. After a season of use, the socks are removed with the biochar full of nutrients. When the socks are pulled out it provides a great opportunity to fertilize gardens and landscaping.

Overall, biochar offers a new, cost effective, low maintenance, and most importantly proactive natural method to manage any aquatic resource. Biochar will reduce the frequency of unsightly and toxic algal blooms and other unwanted nuisances. Aqua Sierra biologists are well equipped at figuring out whether biochar is well suited for your resource, call today!