Making the Sahara green again
Once upon a time, the Sahara was not a desert; it was a huge lush and wet area
This period was around 10.000 years ago. In Algeria there are the famous rock drawings, which document that once upon a time, instead of blisteringly hot sand, this area was the playground of many animals. In Tassili N’Ajjer there are said to be 50.000 rock drawings from different periods. Most have not been sufficiently studied yet due to the enormous volume of sites and the vast area where they are located.
Many different types of animals used to live in this immense area. There was plenty of food and water as the vegetation was abundant and the region had many lakes, rivers, and streams. There were large forests, and it was the ideal place to live.
Here is a YouTube video, which shows what it now looks like. The landscape is still fascinating and mysterious, but a far cry from the green world it once was.
What happened to all the water?
Archaeologists and paleoecologists alike have been trying to find an answer to this mystery. What happened with this green zone? How come it transformed into a desert? Could it be human activity (again)? Who were the culprits of this change? Archaeologist David Wright has the following theory. Could it have been humans with their big goat herds which upset the balance?
Mr. Wright studies archaeological and environmental data. They were mainly records of pollen and sediment cores from the same period. It surprised him to discover a certain pattern. When humans started to have big groups of domesticated animals, they would take them out to pasture.
The problem was that where they passed, they would leave near barren land. This influenced the atmospheric moisture, and that might have been the trigger that set off the change.
This might have been the reason, or perhaps there is another explanation as well. We know that the Sahara has gone through multiple periods of being a desert to then convert into green and again back to desert.
This happens when the Earth’s orbital axis changes slightly. This will change the angle at which solar radiation penetrates the atmosphere. At one angle it will cause more rainfall, producing the West African monsoon season, but at another angle, the rainfall will diminish to a much drier spell, lasting thousands of years which automatically converts the land into a desert.
It is also possible that the two competing theories actually worked in concert to increase the speed at which the desert formed. We know that the great Amazon rain forest provides significant amounts of moisture to the atmosphere through transpiration, so the reduction of grasses would only contribute to the denuding of the environment.
How to make the desert green again
Modern technology is coming up with some amazing solutions which not only make infertile places fertile again, but at the same time can make a big and positive impact on the climate.
From sand to soil in 7 hours is a very interesting TedTalk by Ole Morten Olesen. It is amazing that something so simple can be life giving and a solution to the many deserts on our planet.
Using clay to change sand into fertile soil is great, and the fact that trees also thrive in this environment shows we can make a change. The more trees are planted, the more oxygen there will be on our earth.
Taking into account the huge wildfires all around the globe, it is more than a necessity to plant millions upon millions of trees and make the planet green again. To convert vast areas like the Sahara, which is much larger than the Continental U.S., into profitable land can sound utopian, but with the now existing technology, it is very possible.
More Green Projects for difficult soil
There is a project which uses an innovative waterboxx technology. This is meant to restore the sponge function of degraded soils. The Dutch Company Aquapro developed a new capillary drill for planting.
In the University of Valladolid in Spain, they made tests to select species and landforms to find the right situation where this waterboxx technology could be applied. They based the selection of species on biodiversity and landscape preservation. Some 60.000 samplings were cultivated and planted in different parts of Spain.
Examples of some of the regions include the Autonomous Region of Castilla y Leon with mining, and forested areas in Riofrio de Aliste.
It was also tested in Leon, which has more Alpine conditions, and organic soil is lacking. Other areas chosen included San Mateo de Gallegos in the Autonomous Region of Aragon, which has semi-desertic conditions, and in Vadecans which belongs to the Autonomous Region of Catalunya, where you will find Mediterranean mountains with their long dry periods.
The result of this test was that on flatlands it was too expensive, and the traditional method of planting was more cost effective. But in mountainous areas, the waterboxx proved to have a benefit above normal planting methods. The waterboxx technology protects the sapling against cold, snow, and landslides.
How to re-green the Middle East
Three-quarters of Jordan is a desert, and as a country, it is one of the driest. In a study published by Stanford University in 2017, they stated that the water situation will get worse in the years to come. By the end of the century, there will be 30% less rainfall and they expect temperatures to rise 6 degrees Celsius.
The situation in Jordan reflects many other places on the planet where similar conditions are expected. It is urgent something needs to be done. Nature can be our alley if we treat her well.
A project called Greening The Desert was established 10 years ago by Australian permaculture expert Geoff Lawton. Here he shows people how to live sustainably with limited water and resources.
Australian biologist Bill Mollison and David Holmgren developed Permaculture (a contraction of permanent agriculture) in the 1970s. Permaculture mimics the natural systems and tries to integrate human activity with natural surroundings. Like that, one creates a sustainable ecosystem.
Mr. Lawton and his Jordanian wife, Nadia, bought a 3000 square meter plot in the Dead Sea valley. This area is known for its high salinity levels, it’s extremely hot environment, and scarcity of people willing to consider purchasing land there, even if the price is cheap.
In 2015, the countries of Jordan and Israel signed an agreement to save the Dead Sea and improve access to water in the region. As so often happens with agreements, not much has happened since then due to diplomatic tension, difficulty with funding, and environmentalist objections.
When Mr. Lawton and his team bought the land in 2008, they started with capturing all the water they could and planted hardy trees and nitrogen-fixing plants. These measures provide the garden with anti-evaporation strategies.
All the water is recycled, the entire project runs on solar power, and this forest garden now serves as an institute. Everybody is welcome, visitors from other countries and the local communities are being shown how permaculture functions.
This YouTube video shows you the 10-year timeline of the Greening the Desert Project.
People also bought small plots of land, and following the guidelines of Mr. Lawton can now boast of their own small oasis.
What are earthworks ?
Douglas Barnes is a permaculture designer. Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton trained him in Australia. He has designed earthworks in many places like North America, Japan, and Andra Pradesh in India.
By applying this knowledge you can increase food production, you get higher groundwater levels, you reduce irrigation needs, and you will enhance ecosystem resilience.
In this book you will find how to make swales, ponds, dams, hugelkultur, net-and-pan systems, spate irrigation, and more. It means this practical handbook is for all those people who want to maximize the water harvesting potential of any landscape at the lowest cost and impact.
There are many more innovating projects out there with the capacity to make Mother Earth green again. Humanity can do great and good things. We need to spread the word before it is too late and more of our beautiful Planet has been converted into a desert.
Before you leave, you might like to have a look at Recommendations. It is a special page I made for you with a collection of things you could find interesting.
Source: Smithsonian, March 24, 2017, article by Lorraine Boissoneault, Wikipedia
Photo Source: Pixabay
It is very strange that on the one hand, so many people come up with great ideas to make our planet greener, while in other places people are chopping trees as if they were a problem. Not taking into account that trees provide our oxygen. Please read the following post about 800-year-old trees which have to go because of human stupidity and greed.