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I know that there isn't a lot of desert by the ocean, but I say start with the Baja of Mexico. The idea is to replant the desert, one section at a time and giving it a chance to grow.
Start with taking a bunch of excavators, and dig a level 6 foot deep pit thats say 400 yards by 400 yards. Line
the bottom with concrete, but on the edges don't bring the concrete back up to ground level, just bring them almost to the top (5 ft). Essentially, build a 5ft deep swimming pool 1 ft underground thats a quarter mile in size. Before you fill it back in build concrete poles 30 feet tall at even intervals, say every 10 yards. Fill the concrete basin back in with the sand you dug out of it and add in some soil. Not necessarily a lot of soil, just a couple hundred yards.
Purchase and place a couple of desalination plants that are solar powered by the ocean and have them pump water to the area to be planted. Have them deliver the water half way up the poles where they'll meet sprinkler heads. You'll not need huge desalination plants, somewhere in the area of 500 gallons per day, and use a few 3 or 4 plants. Pump the water into a holding tank where once its full, it'll be pumped to the sprinklers. The water will eventually collect in the tank under the earth and be available for roots.
Dispersed throughout, place nets between the poles to stop wind from eroding your topsoil and piling sand back on and from the tops of the poles to lower the temperature of the top soil. (We are talking about the Baja so it is hot)
Now create a thick jelly substance that is filled with fertilizers, seeds of grasses, shrubs, and trees that grow in hot climates, and a biodegradable reflective substance to reflect the suns heat away before it has a chance to germinate. Instead of completely drying out and making it difficult for the plants to grow in it, it will be re-hydrated every day.
Sit back and keep the water flowing and the area protected until you get germination and eventually large scale growth. You could even place wind turbines on top of the poles for more power to eventually pump the water to the next section you plant.
Replicate this process over and over until you replant as much desert as youd like. Why? Crops, habitable land, just because it a half-bakery idea.
tough, drought tolerant, nitrogen fixing, great fuel crop [afinehowdoyoudo, Dec 02 2007]
Other Salt tolerant plants
[MisterQED, Dec 02 2007]
example of one place that sells the plants [rowepower, Dec 03 2007]
example of a place that sells the wind turbines [rowepower, Dec 03 2007]
||Welcome [rowepower] I like the thinking
jelly part - //Now create a think jelly
substance that is filled with fertilizers//
Now all you need do is add some eyes-
cream and that jelly can see where it's
going :-) Here's your first croissant +
||Think jelly must some sort of primordial goop.
||One question: does the system become
self-sustaining at some point? In other
words, if you de-desertify a large
area (how large?) does it eventually
its own microclimate and stop needing
||Also, how did you arrive at your
of water requirements, amount of soil
needed, etc? 500 gallons per day
sound much over a quarter-mile
square. I put that much on my garden
on a hot summer's day, and it's quite a
bit less than a quarter-mile on a side....
||The idea is great. I was going to go into planting peanuts because a buddy told me that is how they made Israel green, but I can't find any backup. The story went that peanuts don't need a lot of water and the shells make good soil, but since I think he told me they did this in Biblical times and peanuts didn't even arrive in Europe till 1600s I'm now skeptical.
In any case your plan needs a little tweaking I think...
1. Wouldn't plastic sheeting be easier than all that concrete? I'd like to make this cheaper so it actually gets done.
2. You have to deal with the salt water blowing in from the ocean, past and present. It is possible that the sand is already salty and your plan will make a large salt water swimming pool. Also unless you do this on a hill, you may dig down six feet and hit salt water.
Start with some kind of ocean wind barrier like horizontal Savonius wind turbines, then do layers of salt tolerant plants behind it.
Also switch to drip irrigation to lower evaporation losses.
||Ok. sorry about the "think jelly" and I like the plastic instead of the concrete becuase the concrete could also crack under the weight of the fill or during a minor earthquake. I haven't put much thought into amounts of water yet or misture of dirt v. sand. The goal is to eventually create a microclimate, but how far you'd have to go to create it needs some additional work. You are right about the ocean breeze blowing in additional salt. You'd have to formulate 2 types of gel layers. The first would contain those plants that'll grow in saltier conditions. You let them grow for a certain amount of time, then plow a certain amount into the soil/sand for nutrients and spread on another layer for gel 2.0 which contains more grasses/trees/shrubs more like the nearest forest would contain.
||//I haven't put much thought into amounts
of water yet// This would seem to be
rather a serious shortcoming in a scheme
to de-desert deserts.
||Does anyone make a completely automated desalinization plant? I'm thinking solar distillery or "Dune" like caves, but i think both would take in too much salt. Most of the beaches I've seen get a good breeze in off the water, so I think the horizontal Savonius' would work well, and you obviously have lots of solar heat, but most of the desalination plants I've seen use filters and membranes so they'd need periodic maintenance.
||The goal of the desalination plants is eventually fill the dirt filled pool to saturation; thereby, providing a surplus of water for the plant roots. With a minimal amount of water being sprayed onto the plants on a daily basis, over time, the basin will fill and eventually provide the water needed. Desalination plants such as (see the link) can be used. Yes, there will need to be a minimal amount of maintenance involved, on the machinery (wind turbines, desalination plant, sprinklers or water drippers, changing the netting for wind control or shading). I'd love to pump as much water as possible, the 4600 gal/day unit is about $21,000 US, thats not a ton of money compared to an over all cost. So it would be reasonable to use 4600 gal/day. As long as the reservoir fills and sprays water itll work. Wind turbine generators aren't too expensive either (see the other link) So if you use local labor in the Baja (considerably less expensive than here in the US) you could get this project going for what? $150K - 200K. Throw in an extra $50K for yourself to work on it for a year and see what you get going. The cost of buying the land would be the greatest cost (this would make or break the $150k-200k).