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Greening a desert. Would this be worth a try?


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On 8/30/2022 at 9:18 PM, mistermack said:

I don't find your responses particularly informed or useful. Others have posted cogent posts, but yours are becoming rude, and certainly not worth reading. Byeeee.

I presume the near simultaneous disappearance of 2 reputation points from my posts on this topic, and your reappearance on this site are not unconnected events.

Just to be clear. None of negative reps you received for the quoted post came from me. They are the result of how others perceived your behaviour.  

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On 8/16/2022 at 10:55 AM, mistermack said:

I've dreampt up a speculative scheme for greening a desert. Do you think it would work? (or be cost effective?)

You need a desert that extends right up to a significant sea or the ocean. Like lots of Australia, or Namibia etc. Australia would be the best to try it on. 

Imagine you set up a huge array of pumps along, for example, the Great Australian Bight. Connect the pumps to spray nozzles, and start pumping when there is an onshore wind. Adjust the jets for a spray that evaporates most of the water, before it falls back into the ocean. So basically, you are manufacturing water vapour, from sea water, with the salty residue falling back into the ocean. 

So with an onshore wind, all of that humid air is carried inland, where it rises on thermals, forms clouds and rain, greening the land. If the wind blows the other way, you switch it off. 

Obviously, it could only be done on a national level, so that the benfits could be taxed and provide financing for the running of the system. 

Besides providing land that could now be used for agriculture, it could raise the level and quality of groundwater, cool the climate with more cloud cover, and actually get rivers flowing and lakes filling. 

If it worked. Any thoughts?

I've got some background in environmental sciences, and the very first thing you need to "green" anything is water retention and stable substrate. Shifting ground and water evaporation will greatly impede and plants trying to grow in an area.  An oasis is a place where there is a large collection of protected water thanks to local geological structures. They're usually natural springs or wells from the water table below the desert sand. Plants require a place to root and annually reliable soil. Simply watering the sand isn't going to be enough. 

Wind erosion is also a major hurdle for plants. Some can withstand flat, open lands with full sun and arid temperatures, but not the kind that will create a forest. The Dust Bowl in the United States was a good example of this. Rich soil is created by lots of organic matter. The best way to create more forest against a desert is to start on the edge and keep building ecologically sustainable areas inwards. That might mean digging wells or creating large ponds and lakes to hold what little rainfall there may be.  I know there are people that use something called 'swales' to do this. 


If you want to create a lasting forest, it has to be able to survive after the initial human intervention. There are a lot of other factors, too, such as which plants to grow in that area (you want hardy, native, 'foundation' species to begin), but you definitely want to work with nature rather than against it. 

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