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mulch the desert

make it easier for plants to grow
  (+5, -1)
(+5, -1)
  [vote for,

Deserts are hot during the day, cold at night, dry, and when it does rain the soil can't absorb the water efficiently so a significant proportion flows straight to the rivers and ultimately into the ocean or inland lakes. In short, a hostile environment for plants to grow, especially seedlings.

Of course, some species have adapted to the environment. And of course I will be reminded that deserts are precious and unique habitats that should remain undisturbed. Which is true.

But hypothetically if we did want to make the desert greener I suggest covering massive areas of desert or semi-desert with mulch (e.g. wood chips). The mulch could be made from fast- growing plants such as bamboo.

The mulch would help retain moisture, prevent erosion, lower the albedo, and generally make it much easier for seedlings to take root and plants to grow.

There's little point in mulching deserts if we have to keep on repeating every 5 years. However, I think it is possible that this would act as a catalyst for long-term and self-sustaining forestation of semi-arid areas. Done on a large enough scale it could even change the weather (e.g. cooling the air such that rain clouds form more readily).

xaviergisz, Jul 05 2019

Inspirational. https://www.virtuos...armer-plants-trees/
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Jul 05 2019]

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       (+) Yep... and trees. [link]   

       [+] Contouring first , though?   

       Playing with WolframAlpha, all oceans spread out is only 2.6x10^6 L per every square metre or a layer of water 2.6km over the whole surface. Calc probably doesn't include atmospheric water and all that land locked stuff.
wjt, Jul 06 2019

       No contouring, just dump a 4cm depth layer of mulch. I don't understand the rest of your comment, [wjt].
xaviergisz, Jul 07 2019

       This is a thing already. Search "greening the desert" on Youtube.
4and20, Jul 07 2019

       Contouring, will help with water retention, possible keeping sand at bay, reducing full sunlight. Just giving more chance to the life in the mulch.   

       Calcs were slightly unconnected, they were a what if the sea was desalinated and shared across the globe (Human centric). And a lot of biology wouldn't be happy with the removal of 4.662x10^20 kg of salt.
wjt, Jul 07 2019

       You do realize that deserts actually provide a necessary resource to our planet's ecology, right? The dust storms from the Sahara provide the minerals that feed everything from algae in the Gulf of Mexico to the rainforests of the Amazon.   

       Please, stop trying to destroy the downwind environments.
unhelpful_fool, Jul 07 2019

       //You do realize that deserts actually provide a necessary resource to our planet's ecology, right?//   

       You do realize that much of today's desertification was caused by deforestation by us humans and the wholesale slaughtering the wandering herds of herbivores which kept the desert at bay by bending over huge swaths of uneaten grassland with their excrement thereby shading and fertilizing miles-wide tracks of land right?   

       We should be trying to put that right and spreading an expanding layer of lithic mulch for shade and water retention would be a damned good first step. We have enough deserts. Maybe if the deserts were gradually turned into edible forests the economies of people born to such regions wouldn't rely so heavily on shoving gas and oil down our throats to survive.   

       Yes, human activity has caused the expansion of deserts; but this idea doesn't seem to focus on stopping that so much as removing deserts completely. This attitude is found throughout the terraforming bakery and needs to be countered. Deserts are not a bad thing. Yes, as with anything it needs to be in balance with the rest of the planet's ecology, but if we don't recognize the importance of the desert then we will never get the balance correct.   

       And as much as I enjoy the idyllic imagery of an edible forest, take away the deserts and you lose the minerals that allow our modern world to survive.
unhelpful_fool, Jul 07 2019

       Well, we're never going to un-desert-ify the entire planet. All of the regions now considered to be desert were once by turns either tropical or underwater, and or under a sheet of ice.
There is even a portion of Canada which qualifies as natural desert. Nobody's going to dick with that.

       The amount that we can undo... I think we should.   

       There's a really cool project going on where the food source for a certain bacteria are injected into a dune. When the bacteria are released their excrement and carcasses calcify into a geometric shape capable of withstanding weathering long enough that the shade provided makes a micro ecosystem which spreads from these points outwards once the dune has blown by.   

       I think it's great.   

       This is a great idea, founded in science. Mulch does indeed retain moisture and it might bootstrap a succession of plant life to eventually restore desert-ified areas.   

       Just this past week a study was released that said about 900 billion acres of land on Earth could be re-forested, and that this would be our best way to re-absorb excess carbon. New trees are carbon-hungry so let's get planting!
Russtopia, Jul 08 2019


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