Editorial Feature

What is Desert Greening?

With the Earth’s natural resources constantly declining at an alarming rate, drastic methods will need to be taken in the future so that we are not left with a post-apocalyptic sci-fi world we see in movies and video games. Sci-fi video games offer a glimpse of the future technologies and give ideas on how to save the environment. Desert Greening is one such idea and is conceived in several video games as being the saviour of a dystopic world.

What is Desert Greening?

Desert greening is a concept where a number of methods are used to revitalize arid and semi-arid deserts. New methods are formulated every year. Here’s a list of some of the revitalizing methods:

  • Landscaping to reduce temperature, erosion, sandstorms, and evaporation
  • Greenhouse agriculture
  • Regeneration of salty, polluted, or degenerated soils
  • Permaculture - growing of plant communities
  • Planting trees and salt-loving plants such as Salicornia and Halophytes
  • Flood control
  • Seawater farming
  • Inland mariculture
  • Prevention of extensive grazing and firewood use
  • Training of local communities to care for plants, water, etc.

For example, the once lush Horqin Pasture in Mongolia has become a desert over time due to extensive grazing and deforestation brought about by a steady increase in the population of man and livestock. Lack of proper information on environment coupled with poor government support has led to the rapid deterioration of Horqin. As pastures disappear, farmers tend to move to other greenery, thus causing the Horqin Desert to expand at a rate of 10,000 km2 per year.

The U.S.-based global outdoor wear company, Timberland has taken up revitalizing of the Horqin Desert. As of April 2010, the company has helped plant 1 million trees and still counting. Their efforts are supported by Green Net. Together, they hope that tree planting aid in decreasing sandstorms in China and reversing mass desertification.

How Climate Change is Helping the Sahara?

Droughts and deserts are a large part of Africa, and people tend to think that global warming will further aggravate the situation in the continent. However, things are contrary to what it seems. New evidence reveals that the rising temperatures are actually aiding Africans living around the driest parts of the continent.

Scientists are noticing that the Sahara desert and neighbouring areas are becoming greener due to the rise in rainfall. Satellite images of these regions show greenery developing in places like the Sahel, which is a semi-desert close to the Sahara with an area of 3860 km. According to a study in the journal Biogeosciences, even central Chad and western Sudan are benefiting from this climate change. Experts believe that this is happening because hotter air can hold more moisture, thereby aiding to create more rain.

What has yet to be seen is sustainability. If the current trend continues, drought-ravaged regions could be revitalized and turned back to farmers. Well- established climate models reveal that this desert-shrinking trend could likely help in transforming Sahara into a lush savanna like it was 12,000 years ago.

Will Desert Greening Work?

Climate change is making man’s basic necessities scarce in many parts of the world, thereby making water and food a very valuable commodity. The change is evident in the frequency and intensity of climatic turbulences we are witnessing every year.

Climate change can be combated as proved by Australian company, Greening the Desert™. They have been researching and dealing with drought, famine, salinity, and global warming issues quite successfully. Their recommended solution is to grow drought-resistant and salinity-tolerant cash crops, and to use saline waste water to irrigate the desert and drought regions such that carbon abatement is achieved in the process, which will help prevent global warming.

Geoff Lawton of Greening the Desert™ is a permaculture expert who is working towards regaining the former lush green arable land of the Jordan Valley. Years of extensive grazing and drought have turned this region into an arid zone with high levels of salinity. He began using agricultural mulch coupled with specially designed irrigation canals to desalinate the land and restore its fertility. He has covered nearly 3000m2 of land and transforming it into an oasis. He is spreading his expertise to countries around the world.

Into The Future

With the tremendous progress that desert greening has achieved in inhospitable environments such as deserts, it certainly is a plausible option to combat climate change. Desert greening will consume deserts hopefully restoring masses of natural resources for the world.

Sources and Further Reading

Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.

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