Adsorption of allelopathic compounds by wood-derived charcoal: The role of wood porosity

Olivier Keech, C. Carcaillet, M-C. Nilsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


In Swedish boreal forests, areas dominated by the dwarf shrub Empetrum hermaphroditum Hagerup are known for their poor regeneration of trees and one of the causes of this poor regeneration has been attributed to allelopathy (i.e. chemical interferences) by E. hermaphroditum. Fire-produced charcoal is suggested to play an important role in rejuvenating those ecosystems by adsorbing allelopathic compounds, such as phenols, released by E. hermaphroditum. In this study, we firstly investigated whether the adsorption capacity of charcoal of different plant species varies according to the wood anatomical structures of these, and secondly we tried to relate the adsorption capacity to wood anatomical structure. Charcoal was produced from eight boreal and one temperate woody plant species and the adsorption capacity of charcoal was tested by bioassays technique. Seed germination was used as a measurement of the ability of charcoal to adsorb allelochemicals. The charcoal porosity was estimated and the pore size distribution was then calculated in order to relate the wood anatomical features to the adsorption capacity. The results showed that the adsorption capacity of charcoal was significantly different between plant species and that deciduous trees had a significantly higher adsorption capacity than conifers and ericaceous species. The presence of macro-pores rather than a high porosity appears to be the most important for the adsorption capacity. These results suggest that fire-produced charcoal has different ability to adsorb phenols in boreal forest soil, and therefore may have differing effects on the germination of seeds of establishing tree seedlings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-300
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1/2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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