Saturday, March 6, 2010

Replanting the Sahara

The Sahara desert is a very large desert covering almost the entirely of North Africa, broken by only a few rivers and oasis. Did you know that in prehistory, it was a forest? It's true.
Did you also know that there's a plan to re-covert it to it's original forest state. The plan is to use solar panels and greenhouses to desalinate seawater, use the water to raise trees, and under the cover of trees, the area cools (because trees are absorbing the sunlight to run their metabolism), the soil enriches in rotting tree litter, and the lower temperature can even encourage overhead clouds to drop rain.
Most ecosystems tend towards stabilization, in which the plants encourage the very conditions that allow them to thrive. The plants do need quite a bit of help to become strong enough to pull this off, but once firmly established, it becomes self-sustaining.
This would be a major benefit to the governments in the region, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Egypt, Sudan, and the Western Sahara region (which may or may not be an independent state depending on who you ask). Presumably these governments would want to help this project along.
And carbon wise, this would be an incredible sink, sucking millions of tons into lumber. Sweet sweet lumber some of which the local countries might wish to sell for sweet sweet money.

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