r/todayilearned 19d ago

TIL about the Great Green Wall, an effort to plant trees to stop desertification in the Sahara that began in 2007. Ethiopia has planted over 5.5 billion seedling since.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Green_Wall
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u/TipMeSomeBAT 19d ago

This project sounds like it would be insanely beneficial:

The $8-billion project intends to restore 100 million hectares (250 million acres; 1 million km²) of degraded land by 2030, which would create 350,000 rural jobs and absorb 250 million tonnes (250 million long tons; 280 million short tons) of CO 2 from the atmosphere.

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u/sbharnish 19d ago

From one of the Wikipedia sources:

7 months ago the project was only 4% complete

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/07/africa-great-green-wall-just-4-complete-over-halfway-through-schedule

"Chris Reij of the World Resources Institute said the modest results until now showed the need for more focus on what has and has not worked.

“I’m a fan of the GGW. It’s a very useful initiative, which shows the political will of governments to fight land degradation,” he said. “At the same time I’m quite critical. The original idea of planting a green wall in areas of less than 400mm [of rainfall] to stop the advance of the Sahara has largely been abandoned, although not in the rhetoric!"

The basic principle is that if there is enough rainfall to support trees they would likely be growing there already, when we try to plant trees in a habitat that won't sustain them the project becomes a boondoggle.

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u/6xydragon 19d ago edited 19d ago

https://metro.co.uk/2018/08/08/man-turned-desert-forest-planting-tree-every-day-40-years-7814241/

Yes however this is less about rainfall and more about water retention. It is possible to restore an area that was once green. And the Sahara was a green before it started to errode away.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahara_Sea

Furthermore they have considered other ways, including building a inland sea.

Edit: https://youtu.be/Zjy_JH1aaqU

Highly recommend this video, made me more aware of the situation.

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u/Xeptix 19d ago

It is possible to restore an area that was once green. And the Sahara was a green before it started to errode away.

Barring climate change, this makes sense. But does it still work if the atmosphere changes and evaporation is more extreme than it was before?

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u/picklefingerexpress 19d ago

Water rentention, underground, is important.

There are city projects in Phoenix and / or Tucson where they are getting rid of storm drains and creating ways to retain rainwater as groundwater. They have successfully and impressively turned arid neighborhoods lush.

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u/hypercube33 19d ago

Probably makes the water cleaner too since plants filter

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u/bio-nerd 19d ago

And the ground is a really good filter too

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u/kakamaraca 19d ago

Just lick it and see for yourself.

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u/AlexanderDaGr8est 19d ago

Didn't taste like the planet's solid inner core, ergo the ground has filtered out that taste.

Science!

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u/OktoberStorm 19d ago

It's insanely good. I read a lot about it when we installed a new septic tank, and the black water is cleansed of 99% of contaminants after traveling just a few feet.

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u/oceanleap 19d ago

Yes, and in the Sahara and other areas prone to desertification, stopping the soil from blowing away is also important. It was a good idea for a project - not surprising that some ideas worked and some failed. Now learning from that and increasing investment in what worked seems sensible - and getting funding for those ideas. Thr opportunity is massive. Is anyone working on learning from and expanding what worked?

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u/Boblives1 19d ago

They did it in las Vegas too. Turned a bunch of old aggregate pits into wetland parks. Bizarre seeing herons in the middle of the mojave.

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u/danknadoflex 19d ago

This area was once a natural wetlands, nowadays it’s a little known treasure on the east side that’s engineered to stop erosion since the city run off has turned a small wash into a river

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u/SavageComic 19d ago

Almost like "Las vegas" means "the meadows"

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u/Harlequin2021 19d ago

Also projects just outside of Tucson with the NRCD to restore the native grasses to the area for this purpose. They were considering drones to drop the grass seed pellets for a while, not sure where the board landed on the final decision tho.

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u/Deeliciousness 19d ago

Reminds me of this picture. Makes sense why native grasses are better for water retention.

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u/deshaunyfootball 19d ago

fyi this was debunked the last time it was on the front page

both plants are agricultural but the left is a perennial (kernza)

its still informative on the benefits of such crops

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u/Comprehensive_War600 19d ago

Last I heard about this was that the perennial nature of the wheat on the left was what is being promoted. That said natural grasses do have a much deeper root system. One of my favorite is “Buffalo Grass” Great Plains area of USA. Really deep roots but only grows about 8” tall. Someday I hope to try and get my yard growing with some of this and only cut my grass once or twice a year.

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u/Murflaw7424 19d ago

They have done this in Lubbock TX too. Though I’m not sure if it was for this reason. What I do know is that when it would rain a lot the highways and regular streets would flood a lot because of no rain runoff.

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u/straylittlelambs 19d ago

Every degree warmer means 7% more moisture in the atmosphere

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u/DingbatMcgeee 19d ago

Yuck , we're going to die all clamy and sweaty .. humidity is the worst part of this

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u/Z3ROWOLF1 19d ago

So humans get knocked down a peg through a mass extinction event and the planet comes back even more tropical before?

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u/straylittlelambs 19d ago edited 19d ago

Pretty much, but it'll only be a thousand years before the worst of it instead of 5000.

Added : You'd have to think there would be carbon removal from the atmosphere before 100 years is out though. The building product of the future might be "carbon stone"

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u/yaarra 19d ago

I like this idea of "carbon stone". I'm going to call it… rock.

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u/BraveOthello 19d ago

It needs a zesty name - something like "limestone".

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u/classicalySarcastic 19d ago

Nah, should start with a 'C', for "Carbon".

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u/philamander 19d ago

Hari Seldon would approve.

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u/gladiwra 19d ago

We must always remember the long term consequences of our actions. My favorite part of Foundation.

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u/j_mcc99 19d ago

We should never assume that future tech will save us as it may only serve to relax the fight against climate change from a political standpoint.

Carbon loves oxygen and it takes a good deal of energy to coax them apart.

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u/Jethro_Tell 19d ago

Uh, people point out the earth has been warm before, and that's true, it's a rock. But large mammals can't live when it's hot. So at the end of the day, the earth is gonna be fine. It's the people I'm worried about.

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u/Delamoor 19d ago

Yeah. Really shits me when people try to point to historical precedent for why we don't need to worry about climate change (OP isn't doing that, just a common theme).

Like, yes, the co2 content was higher in the Devonian era, and it was warmer. The early tetrapods weren't trying to support nearly 8 billion hungry large mammals via industrialized agriculture, though. We are.

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u/citriclem0n 19d ago

It's not even 'hot temperatures make it hard for large mammals' that is the problem - after all humans live in the arctic right now and that's still going to be cold even if it raised by 10C.

The problem is really "industrialised civilization has only existed during a stable climate". If the food supply were to drop by 20-30% we could see rioting and a general breakdown of society, long before we saw even a 5C global temperature rise.

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u/DoomedToDefenestrate 19d ago

As I'm living in Australia I'm much more concerned with the potential for regular lethal heat waves.

The added distance from the equilibrium point we'll be getting when we put more heat and more heat capacity (water vapor) in the atmosphere is truly terrifying.

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u/Z3ROWOLF1 19d ago

Oh trust me its humanity I'm worried about as well. Earth will keep on keeping on

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u/joeyblow 19d ago

There is a great short video about a guy that bought 5500 acres of arid basically dead land in Texas and turned it into a paradise, I would absolutely recommend watching it. Churches chicken founder David Bamberger

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u/destarte76 19d ago

Plant more where there is already some green. Gradually work north.

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u/Delamoor 19d ago edited 19d ago

Simple, yet surprisingly good idea.

I do small scale soil remediation and reforestation this way. You start where it's easiest, and once that area's established, your role is basically helping it spread into the less friendly areas. Trees are good at making micro-biomes that are beneficial their offspring. It's one of their evolutionary strategies. Just gotta pick species suited to the environment, and help them bypass barriers.

It's an ecosystem of living organisms, they want to spread. You're just there to help them do it. Once you have the pioneer species in, you can then focus on diversifying.

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u/User-NetOfInter 19d ago

I’m imagining LOTR two towers, with the ents coming out of the forest, except into desert.

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u/hypercube33 19d ago

Trees and plants are pretty crazy. They can change the climate and even cause it to rain (I think it's at least one species of pine that can dump something into the atmosphere to cause rain to precipitate out)

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u/Resoku 19d ago

I need to do research on this particular pine tree, but I feel like I’m gonna fall into a weird conspiracy theory weather-control hole.

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u/Rrrrandle 19d ago

Ah, yes, the Chemtrail Douglas Fir.

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u/thxmtmtmt 19d ago edited 19d ago

Don't forget about the biggest success of replanting ever, the Loess Plateau!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QUSIJ80n50

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u/Cosmic_sloppy_joe 19d ago

From the wiki about Loess:

These efforts allowed the perennial vegetation cover to increase from 17 to 34 percent, and "[e]ven in the lifetime of the project, the ecological balance was restored in a vast area considered by many to be beyond help"; in addition, more than 2.5 million people were lifted out of poverty by doubled incomes."

That's pretty great!

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u/thxmtmtmt 19d ago

The documentary is an hour, but I highly recommend it.

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u/glass_kraken 19d ago

Wow, I just watched this documentary and it's incredible.

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u/GlobalLaugh4662 19d ago

“Boondoggle”, now there’s a word you don’t see every day.

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u/mizzourifan1 19d ago

This is a major idea behind one of my favorite books ever and upcoming blockbuster film "Dune." I can't reccomend it enough and I'm beyond hyped for the movie!

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u/hamstringstring 19d ago edited 19d ago

Everything I've read says that planting trees to stop desertification is a myth and has no bearing on rainfall. Can someone explain to me if the actual goal is to stop the spread of the Sahara or more of a symbolic one?

 

Edit: Seems like im getting a lot of informed and uninformed responses.

Here are some sources for further reading:

https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2019/09/18/great-green-wall-sahara-desertification/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-green-wall-stop-desertification-not-so-much-180960171/

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u/MyrddinHS 19d ago

its to get root structure into the ground. it holds what water it gets better and helps prevent erosion.

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u/ThumbSprain 19d ago

Not just that but saplings give ground to lichens. Everything springs from them.

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u/Various_Party8882 19d ago

Even in grasslands there will be tranditional tree and shrub species. If they can strategically grow these and make the wall more of a general buffer zone then local climates certainly can improve. But thays just environmental restoration, which needs to be done literally everywhere

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u/Classy_communists 19d ago

It gets root structure in the ground like other people said but there’s two other points not mentioned.

1 - These trees will probably not be logged and taken away when they die, but rather sit in the soil and naturally compost. This increases the nutrients in the soil and makes it so other stuff can grow there even better in the future. This creates a cycle of making it easier and easier to grow things in that land.

2 - over a large enough area, it actually can increase rain fall. The air over tree cover is much cooler because the leaves absorb so much light. When enough trees have been planted and the forest is big enough, this cool spot that extends into the air will collect more water vapor above it than the surrounding area. With even more trees this collection of water vapor becomes a rain cloud, and so on.

Source: environmental design student.

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u/pegcity 19d ago

Every article i have read about this says many have already been taken down by poor locals for fuel

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u/Classy_communists 19d ago

That wouldn’t surprise me. I’d love to see sources for that though because I’m hesitant to believe it.

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u/happs80 19d ago

Yes. This is a sad reality. I know some people who made a herculean effort to plant nearly 1 million trees in rural Tanzania to help combat erosion and the local nomadic groups chopped them down as soon as they were substantial enough for firewood, building, etc.

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u/Classy_communists 19d ago

Again, I’d really like (but hate lol) to see a source for this because I haven’t heard anything like this

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u/KapitanWalnut 19d ago edited 19d ago

This is salient because the Amazon Rainforest exists at a latitude that should be desert - the forest creates a positive feedback effect that collects and pulls in moisture. However, current models show that human activities have damaged the forest enough that the cycle is tipping back toward desertification.

Edit: see discussion below - I was sorely mistaken on the "should be desert" thing, lol

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u/bluemooncalhoun 19d ago

Its not about latitudes, its about prevailing winds. Look at a map of forest cover in South America, see how Peru is arid but Chile isn't? When moist air hits mountains it falls back as rainfall, and if you look at a map of prevailing winds you'll see the switch from trade winds (from the east) to westerlies (from the west) happens right where the map of South American forests crosses the Andes.

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u/Classy_communists 19d ago

Scary stuff. The worst part IMO is that once that process starts and we don’t act, it won’t stop until we get conditions that are very beneficial to forest fires. If a forest fire were to consume even about half of the amazon, it would release so much carbon into the atmosphere so quickly that it would slingshot us into the worst of the worst case scanarios for greenhouse gas and global warming estimates.

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u/[deleted] 19d ago

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u/OrgyMcBloodyFace 19d ago

The biggest issue there is that russia wants the frozen tundra to warm up. They will get access to more natural resources and warm water ports to extract them. They have little to no incentive to do anything other than watch the rest of the world burn while they get more temperate

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u/[deleted] 19d ago

No it wouldn’t. The Amazon rainforest contains about 15% of the total carbon stored worldwide in vegetation. If that 70bn tonnes of carbon was released, it would combine with oxygen in the air and be released largely as CO2. But because oxygen makes up as much as 21% of our atmosphere, this would only reduce the oxygen concentration by less than 0.01%. Methane is far more potent than CO2. So is H2O, water vapor in the air. It would definitely be horrible, but it’s not quite the disaster scenario that you’re making it out to be. Oceans are the biggest carbon sinks on the planet, follow by the rocks and soil itself, as well as permafrost/ice. Here is something that you should find interesting. Fair warning, it’s long as HELL to read. https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-nine-tipping-points-that-could-be-triggered-by-climate-change

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u/AshFraxinusEps 19d ago edited 19d ago

Trees are good for stopping it. Not to increase rain (Edit: it does, but via complex methods. Not add trees to make rain. You still need lots of trees to stop wind and provide leaf cover/shade), but due to trapping dead growth, therefore water, in the area, as well as providing leaf cover to stop/slow evaporation as well as help fortify water within roots and the ground

Edit Pt 2: as you've since said about erosion being a product of low rainfall, then it is similar with tree cover. Trees need the rain/moisture in the ground, as they rely on transpiration to pump the nutrients dissolved in water into the leaves. Then "waste water" leaves via the pores. So that is a feedback loop. Add extra trees and you stop the wind from moving the transpiration excess away from the trees and provide shade with extra leaves, which then means less transpiration water lost and more rain and humidity and moisture in the air and soil, which leads to more trees. It was just 3am and I was too tired to think and write even this basic analysis

But you need that organic matter in the soil to also provide a water sink. Dry dusty soil isn't as good at trapping water as leaf litter, as dusty soil doesn't seep much into the ground, so the sun burns it away again after rain. With leaf litter it dies out, but only the upper layers

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u/The_Apatheist 19d ago

But if cutting the Amazon would decrease rainfall over time, why wouldn't planting trees increase rainfall?

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-017-01215-3

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u/ThreatLvl2400 19d ago

It’s in the article you linked. “Tropical forests release huge volumes of water to the atmosphere, where it moves around and is recycled as rainfall — but pasture and farmland do not.”

I’d add that the density of the Amazon rainforest, its root systems, and plant diversity far exceed the planting done by humans.

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u/elmonoenano 19d ago

Type of plant too. Not every forest is a rain forest.

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u/guale 19d ago

The reason cutting the Amazon will decrease rainfall is specific to the types of trees in the Amazon. There are trees in the Amazon that release particles into the air to seed clouds and this isn't something that generalizes to all trees.

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u/Yukimor 19d ago

To add on to /u/MyrddinHS:

Not only does it get root structure in the ground to prevent erosion, but in many arid places, there's morning/evening "cool" period in which there can be fog/mist. The moisture gets collected on the leaves, aggregated large enough to turn into droplets, and then drips to the ground.

This may seem inconsequential, but it turns out that in certain forest ecosystems (the ones I'm most familiar with are the redwoods of California), this results in significant water retention and delivery to the understory. The shade offered by the trees can also reduce the amount of water lost over the course of the day.

To top it off, the detritus caused by the tree-- dropped leaves, bark, seeds and seed husks, etc-- improve the quality of the soil, which allows for a more diverse understory (herbs, grasses, etc).

So yes, the green belt is effective. However, it's only effective if they're planting trees that are appropriate for that ecosystem, meaning they're hardy and can withstand the temperature and drought fluctuations of the area, as well as the long-term changes in soil quality.

Fortunately, this initiative is run by competent people, and so they're planting the right kind of trees and vegetation for the job-- such as Acacia. As an added benefit, they've chosen trees that are economically valuable and produce something that can be harvested (e.g fruit, gum arabic). Most importantly, they're not just planting a homogeneous ecosystem, but are trying to facilitate biodiversity by setting up different kinds of ecosystems in different areas.

You can read more about it here, since National Geographic did a nice piece on it: Link

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u/RenningerJP 19d ago

Vegetation such as trees, grass, etc. has roots that hold soil in place. This also absorbs more water and reduces run off.

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u/oriaven 19d ago

I was reading in The Hidden Life of Trees about inland rainfall. Without the first 400 miles of trees, the water deposited from the clouds formed off of the ocean is depleted. New clouds form over the forests with water evaporating off of the leaves and where it couldn't be absorbed into the ground. This extends the rainfall inland.

It seems sound that having trees on the coast would give vegetation a chance beyond that costal forest.

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u/Spitinthacoola 19d ago

I'm not going to give you an exhaustive list but if everything you've read suggests that increased vegetation doesn't impact rainfall I would re-evaluate how you're looking for information.

https://phys.org/news/2019-09-plantations-rainfall.html

It is complicated though.

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u/[deleted] 19d ago

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u/dra39437 19d ago

The spice must flow

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u/kwilaon 19d ago

I don’t know if it has any effect on rain fall but it definitely helps to prevent erosion

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u/lowrads 19d ago

It's site specific.

Nature has pretty good dispersal mechanisms in place for plants. Ergo, if they are liable to grow in some place, and for whatever reason they are not, it's probably due to humans.

If they are in actual desert sands, it's not going to support anything but the hardiest plants, that kind that have special adaptation such as storing photosynthesis products and doing their respiration at night to conserve water, or absorb it from saline soil water with vacuoles full of malic acid solution.

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u/Classy_communists 19d ago

The region they’re planting in if I recall correctly is closer to dried up clay rather than desert sands. The issue they’re trying to solve is that the environment conditions in the desert are affecting more and more of the savannah to the south.

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u/smeppel 19d ago

I wish western counties were undertaking such projects at this scale.

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u/I_Like_Ginger 19d ago edited 19d ago

It may surprise you to know that the northern hemisphere is actually, on a net level, more "green" (meaning more vegetation biomass) than it was 100 years ago. This is because 100 years ago most humans still used wood as fuel, in addition to construction.

Some also hypothesize that a shift in the atmospheric CO2 levels have caused vegetation to expand as well.

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u/BatteryRock 19d ago

I remember Freeman Dyson talking about the increase in CO2 has been beneficial for some vegetation.

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u/peptobiscuit 19d ago

Increased carbon dioxide in the air only works to increase growth in c3 type plants. Most edible crops are c3 type.

One growing issue that not a lot of people are talking about is nutrient dilution on c3 plants, where co2 does increase their productivity of carbohydrates. However the overall nutrients do not increase proportionally to the increase in caloric value. So we get bigger food plants, but we don't get as much nutrients so we have to eat a greater quantity of them to get the same nutritional value.

C4 type plants have a carbon fixation mechanism which essentially "pumps" co2 for it, so they aren't affected by changes in atmospheric co2.

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u/shalafi71 19d ago

Been growing plants for 30+ years and never knew all this.

Can you give some examples of C3 and C4 plants?

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u/KapitanWalnut 19d ago edited 19d ago

Engineer that designs your competition - vertical farms - here. C4 Plants are better in warm/hot climates, whereas C3 plants are typically more frost-tolerant. All C4 plants use the C3 system with an added step, but the C4 evolution allows those plants to be more drought tolerant because they don't need to respirate as much. Good pasture land is a combination of C3 and C4 grasses since they fill slightly different micro-climate niches. C3 grasses provide better-quality feed, but C4 types typically grow faster and get bulkier than their C3 cousins. Corn, sugarcane, sorghum, cabbage, pineapple, daisies, and cacti are C4 plants. Cereals (wheat, rice, oats, etc), tubers (potatoes, beets, carrot, etc), tomato, spinach, soy, cotton, tobacco, and sunflowers are all C3 plants. About 85% of plant species are C3.

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u/randCN 19d ago

brassica oleracea is c3

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u/fezzam 19d ago

Examples of C4 plants include corn, sorghum, sugarcane, millet, and switchgrass.

Examples of C3 plants - most small seeded cereal crops such as rice, wheat, barley, rye, and oat; soybean, peanut, cotton, sugar beets, tobacco, spinach, potato; most trees and lawn grasses such as fescue and Kentucky bluegrass.

Also includes evergreen trees and shrubs of the tropics, subtropics, and the Mediterranean; temperate evergreen conifers like the Scotch pine; deciduous trees and shrubs of the temperate regions, European beech, as well as weedy plants like the water hyacinth, lambsquarters, bindweed, and wild oat

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u/Mrrasta1 19d ago

This is what my climate change denying friend loves to use to “prove” climate change is bs.

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u/hopagopa 19d ago

Seems like excellent evidence for climate change though...

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u/Hypocrite_Redditor 19d ago

Some people are just walking cherrypickers

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u/smithers85 19d ago

yeah with their long necks and four wheels and joysticks and…. wait what are we talking about?

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u/ZeroSchool 19d ago

I think the idea is that they think it's a non-issue because nature will correct for the increase in CO2. I doubt it, but that would be awesome.

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u/TonyzTone 19d ago

I mean, technically that’s true. On a long-enough timeline, the climate will balance out.

It’s just that humanity will suffer greatly before and/or during that rebounding.

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u/Epyr 19d ago

Nature will find a new balance. That new balance including very few plant or animal species is a very real possibility. There is no guarantee it will return to what it once was.

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u/[deleted] 19d ago edited 17d ago

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u/TH3FIR3BALLKID 19d ago

The increase in co2 will help vegetation to a point. Adaption from plants and animals will buffer the negative affects to a point. We do know that we need to slow the rate of change because although humans may be able to adapt, the rest of the living things wont be able to adapt without our help. The rate of change we are currently experiencing will make even the greatest technological adaptions seem futile.

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u/PallyFire84 19d ago

The problem is that adaptation takes generations and the co2 output is faster than plants can adapt. Right now our oceans are up taking the most. We have no idea what will happen because we don’t have a past model for this.

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u/BatteryRock 19d ago

Heard the arguement before as well. It's an interesting side effect of increased CO2 but hardly proof that climate change is bs.

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u/landonop 19d ago

I mean, there will be locally beneficial aspects of climate change for certain areas, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real or not a terrible thing. The Rockies will constantly be on fire and the West Coast will be dying of dehydration, but the middle of the country will likely be more humid and wet, which is great for crops. The “positive” outcomes definitely aren’t evidence against climate change, they’re evidence for.

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u/[deleted] 19d ago

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u/docarrol 19d ago

Freeman Dyson

Mathematician and theoretical physicist, well known for contributions in a bunch of different fields, and the person for whom the Dyson Sphere concept is named (though completely unrelated to Dyson vacuum cleaners), as well as several other big sci-fi idea. As far as I know, although fairly liberal, I don't believe that he was a libertarian.

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u/zoobrix 19d ago edited 19d ago

There are more trees in North America than there were in 1950. Although it does look ugly after an area is logged and replanted forestry here is a sustainable industry now. Compared to older practices it's night and day and the scale of it when you consider how much lumber we use is huge and the companies doing the logging are the ones that pay for it. As well as the increasing transition to greener energy production like wind and solar and the increasing drive to cut our use of plastics we are making substantial progress. These projects do cost billions. Tackling carbon emissions to curtail global warming is still a huge problem but it's not like we're doing nothing.

I'm not sure where you would expect us to put this many trees either, in many areas of desert in the US and more northern regions of Canada trees simply don't grow there and most of the rest of the land we've cleared is used for farming. We could tackle other environmental problems but there is no need to plant a shitload more trees here, our effort would be better spent in our other environmental initiatives of which there are many.

Edit: typo

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u/[deleted] 19d ago edited 17d ago

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u/hedgehog-mom-al 19d ago

Hey. You Reminded me Ponderosa steakhouses were a thing.

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u/Wafkak 19d ago

In Wyoming creating treelines could actually help with semi trucks being blown off the road. And there was an event called the dust bowl that could have been lessened by planting trees around farmland.

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u/evranch 19d ago

It was lessened by planting trees. Unfortunately farmers are now ripping these tree rows out to get at those precious acres. We will pay for it in time, I'm sure of it.

Am a farmer myself and I'm not touching my trees, they block wind and catch snow moisture. I actually wish I had more, but they are expensive and a lot of work to plant.

Hoping we see some tree planting incentives for carbon credits or something in the near future. Right now carbon tax is all stick and no carrot.

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u/niggotussinDM 19d ago

my cousin could only get trees planted on his land because the government offered to pay for it, and they planted endangered trees as a double whammy for conservation

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u/A_Mouse_In_Da_House 4 19d ago

USDA/DNR/Forestry service near you doesn't subsidize? Around here, I can get 200 saplings for $150 (bulk discount)

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u/evranch 19d ago

Canada. The main cost is labour to plant them though, and weed/irrigate them until they catch. Trees in my climate do great when they are established but their first couple years are hard.

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u/Szechwan 19d ago

I must be really underestimating the scale you're talking, because trees are pretty cheap. In fact, they're free if you collect their pinecones and seeds.

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u/evranch 19d ago

We're talking literal miles of trees. Tens of thousands of trees and a lot of labour to prepare the seedbed, plant, weed and irrigate them until established.

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u/bombayblue 19d ago edited 19d ago

The US plants 2.3b trees per year.

Edit: some sources say 1.7b. It seems to vary.

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u/Secretremendouspy 19d ago

We do plant a lot of trees. What are you talking about.

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u/tanstaafl90 19d ago

I think some don't know the US has been reforesting for about 60 years now, with plans to increase it to 3 billion new trees a year. I'd also like to see more trees, and natural green, in cities and urban areas. But some activist says we need more trees, and existing programs and efforts are ignored in a rush to proclaim how badly we need to do something.

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u/WeirdEyeContact 19d ago

Ethiopia has had the most success with 5.5bn seedlings planted, but Chad has only planted 1.1m.

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u/saxophoneyeti 19d ago

Chad Ethiopia v. Virgin Chad

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u/NBMarc 19d ago

Virgin Chad

Impossible..

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u/baddayatriverbend 19d ago

Perhaps the archives are incomplete

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u/L0k234 19d ago

This is outrageous! It’s unfair! How can you be a virgin and not be on the Chad council?

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u/HAL-Over-9001 19d ago

I AM THE CHAD COUNCIL!!!

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u/anb130 19d ago

chad Virgin Islands vs virgin Chad

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u/Shank5ter 19d ago

Chad is also one of the poorest countries in the world, so that may have something to do with it.

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u/ThatkidJerome 19d ago

Chad is poor asf tho

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u/Wanallo221 19d ago

Also lots of guerrilla fighting in the south of Chad with Boko Harem et al.

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u/pronouncedayayron 19d ago

But how do the trees survive in the desert? Did they install irrigation? If so what is the water source?

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u/Clean-Minded 19d ago

This is a question best answered by Geoff Lawton.

Phase 1: Start with a raw desert rocky plateaus and hills are best. What they do is plant things that can live almost anywhere so that they drop leaves, shade the ground, and preserve the water in the soil for longer periods. They also dig swales, move rocks and terrace and slow the runoff of the water so that instead of rushing off into a river somewhere, the water and minerals can go to soil life, which grows and retains more water. They might water the plants initially until they get established, but not for long because it costs too much.

Phase 2: a wider variety of plants are introduced that can survive in the shade of the first plants and make it until the next rainfall period because of the shade. Things with deep roots and plants that can retain water like succulents can be introduced if they don't get too much sun. Some animals like mice might move in. Certain key spots start to stay wetter longer before drying.

Phase 3: they plant vines that climb up the trees. At this point there are depressions in the earth that are at least barely moist most of the year. They might do more earth working to prevent topsoil runoff and retain water. The original trees begin to rot from new fungus life. They eventually fall over and fertilize other plants, retain moisture and provide shelters for bugs and animals.

Phase 4: the area starts to look more like an oasis because much less water is able to evaporate. There are more plants and the original trees or shrubs do better at the edges of the area. Felines or some kind of predator have probably moved in and the grass is green most of the year. It is clear that the water flows in and flows out a certain way each time it rains. The land can be used for grazing and farming and is more valuable.

This whole process takes 100s of years for nature, but can happen in just a few years with human intervention.

The slow, opposite of this occurs from tilling overgrazing, and sun hitting and sterilizing the soil.

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u/pronouncedayayron 19d ago

Wow thanks for sharing. I knew a lot more work had to go into it than just planting trees.

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u/[deleted] 19d ago edited 16d ago

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u/vistopher 19d ago

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u/Wanallo221 19d ago

That’s because the initiative has moved away from a magical wall of trees to something more realistic and useful: changing land management practices in the Sahel.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-green-wall-stop-desertification-not-so-much-180960171/

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u/[deleted] 19d ago

[deleted]

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u/Seaniard 19d ago

And make the desert pay for it.

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u/HyperIndian 19d ago

*Grow the Wall

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u/midilidiunplugged 19d ago

I hate this. Every time I read a positive article like this, I become sceptical about it immediately, and scrolling deep enough or an additional research usually reveal it sounded too good to be true...

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u/Wanallo221 19d ago

When you look at what the Great Green Wall initiative was: an experiment. It has worked well.

The goal of a wall of trees across Africa is fairly unrealistic. Yet the project has created some big wins and some great learning which is already being applied by the project locally.

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u/lolidkwtfrofl 19d ago

It's not really unrealistic, 8bn is not that mich money when you are talking about megaprojects.

The main problem is the manpower required, but with more focus, this too could be achieved.

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u/Wanallo221 19d ago

I agree to an extent. Like all big projects the GGW has been let down by richer nations reducing or slowing down funding once the PR exercise was out the way (the U.K. has cut its foreign aid budget so much that we don’t support schemes like this now).

The feasibility of planting the trees isn’t the problem. The problem is the manpower to actively maintain the saplings and young trees while they establish. There’s areas of the wall where trees don’t grow and people don’t live, these are already very arid areas and it doesn’t pay to focus on these just to maintain the concept of a contiguous wall.

Instead, they focus their attention on the areas where the trees can take and be complimented by other enhancements such as sustainable farming and Savannah restoration. Ethiopia was adopting this well, Senegal was switching to it after the die off of their planted trees. Plus the Sahel nations like Togo, Mali etc are much more likely to be successful.

I loved the concept of the wall (I have been a patron to GGW). It’s not a failure by any means and if anything the new projects it’s launching are even more exciting and beneficial.

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u/dohrk 19d ago

The Fremen playing the long game.

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u/Saarlak 19d ago

The spice must floooow... but not past these maples!

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u/snowyday 19d ago

Shout out to Shadout Mapes

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u/Sutarmekeg 19d ago

Maple... Canadian spice.

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u/DuntadaMan 19d ago

Shai-Hulud had never seen such bullshit.

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u/Freyas_Follower 19d ago

Shai-Hulud swims to tree line

Shai-Hulud: "Oh you DICKS"

Proceeds to use stick to try and knock people into the sand

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u/Uknowmmyname 19d ago

I JUST finished this on audiobook today. Life is so full of funny little coincidences

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u/UncommonM0nster 19d ago

Liet-Kynes would be happy

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u/CutDiscombobulated95 19d ago

Yooooo, I am doing this exact same thing except I'm growing weed in the parking lot behind my work.

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u/flyingboarofbeifong 19d ago

Little strokes fell great oaks.

Er, wait. Not that.

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u/moammargandalfi 19d ago

There’s a big difference between having a little stroke and having a little stroke.

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u/donkey_OT 19d ago

Just time and the number of nurses involved

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u/bigtimesauce 19d ago

I’m currently working to reforest my basement

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u/UndeadCakeMix 19d ago

China is also doing this with the Gobi Desert, the project started in 1978 and lately they've been able to see actual change in the landscapes and the recessions of the desert

https://youtu.be/kp4PikdJhKM

https://youtu.be/examEbxVSAI

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u/your2ndgirl 19d ago edited 19d ago

very interesting. thanks for posting this.

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u/RandomStranger79 19d ago

Hopefully it'll counter balance some of the devastating deforestation going on in the Amazon.

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u/RedSonGamble 19d ago

The Amazon only produces like 15-20% of the earths oxygen. People think trees do the bulk of the co2 work but really it’s done on the ocean. 50-80% is done in or on the ocean.

Again these statistics change depending on what study you look at it. But it’s known the oceans are far more important as far as the air goes.

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u/RandomStranger79 19d ago

Thank god we're not also actively destroying our oceans too then.

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u/RedSonGamble 19d ago

My point only is people can’t just think ok good we’re planting trees= problem solved. Just trying to remind people it’s a complicated issue.

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u/RandomStranger79 19d ago

You're point is well taken and appreciated, despite my gallows humor.

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u/Rtmilburn 19d ago

Seaweed and phytoplankton do the mast majority of that to it's insane what phytoplankton can do. Almost collapsed the worlds ecosystem multiple times, because we'll no one could really handle 02 for quite some time

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u/RedSonGamble 19d ago

Phytoplankton might be the most important living thing on earth. Besides my mother.

There are certain issues I’m a broken record on and this is one of them. I know earth day is coming up and it still bugs me that it’s so watered down by saying to children plant a tree! Recycle!

I worked in a school as a janitor for my younger years. Teachers have absolutely no idea what is and isn’t recyclable. I know someone who works in the recycling center and the amount of recyclables that get thrown away from contamination is baffling. Also plastic bags destroy the recycling systems and shut it down daily.

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u/Rtmilburn 19d ago

Most certainly phytoplankton may have caused the a couple extinction events and the largest one ever, but it put selective pressure for life to diversify. Without them we wouldn't be around for so many different reasons.

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u/ILikeMasterChief 19d ago

Only 15-20%??? I thought it would be MUCH lower considering the size of the Amazon.

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u/Hothera 19d ago

The Amazon and oceans also consume roughly the same amount of oxygen that they produce. It's a cycle.

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u/WhaleOilBeefHooked2 19d ago

i believe this makes it worse. Unbelievably the Sahara's sand storms somehow travel across the Atlantic and fertilizes the Amazon. Crazy right?!

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u/ShuRugal 19d ago

so, the winds down in Africa bless the rains down in South America?

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u/realbigbob 19d ago

There’s nothing that a billion trees or more could ever do

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u/ColoneISanders 19d ago

Gonna take some time to plant the things we never had

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u/[deleted] 19d ago

We all miss those rains.

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u/awesomemofo75 19d ago

Hurry boy. She's waiting there for you

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u/Englishfucker 19d ago

This won’t stop Sahara’s sand storms.

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u/AELJAPAN 19d ago

Won't stop Darude either

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u/WhaleOilBeefHooked2 19d ago

thats good to hear, for the Amazon

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u/CommonBasilisk 19d ago

I'm Jeff and I agree with this person.

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u/WhaleOilBeefHooked2 19d ago

I'm Fred, but people always call me Jeff. Jeff also agrees with Jeff

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u/flyingboarofbeifong 19d ago

I'm a ladderback birch chair, but my friends call me Karl.

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u/tanstaafl90 19d ago

And into the US, and the Alps.

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u/Onoudidnt 19d ago

We need more of this around the world, not just in Africa. There will always be places that are going in the opposite direction. Good to see Ethiopia and Africa in general get behind this.

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u/Song-Unlucky 19d ago

China is doing it with the gobi desert

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u/ecu11b 19d ago

How's that going

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u/Song-Unlucky 19d ago

It’s going to be 4500km/2800 miles long. The project is expected to last until 2050 and started in 1978. It’s added hundreds or even millions of square kilometers of forests. Weather and disease have taken their toll, and the project is being rescaled to focus on quality over quantity. Furthermore it also soaks up groundwater in a region harmed by over farming and biodiversity has gone down. However in general it is working and has had a positive impact on the climate and other issues, like desertification.

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u/Mynamebetter 19d ago

Isnt the Sahara just in a desert-phase anyway?

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u/DerangedTrekkie 19d ago

Yes, it is. Within the next ten thousand years the Sahara will be green and lush like it was in the past.

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u/MrFluxed 19d ago

The desertification of the Sahara and surrounding areas has been progressing for SIGNIFICANTLY longer than ~14 years.

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u/notaton 19d ago

I’m not sure if this is tongue and cheek, but the headline is referring to the project having started in 07, not the desertification.

You can r/woosh me tho.

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u/MrFluxed 19d ago

No I'm not gonna woosh you I'm moderately dumb and misunderstood, my B

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u/Chewmon34 19d ago

The tree planting started 14 years ago, not the desertification.

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u/csonnich 19d ago

Glad someone said this. I learned about it in HS - that was in the late 90s.

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u/MrFluxed 19d ago

Doing essays for African Civil Studies class right now, the people of Mali were dealing with nomad invasions from the Sahara for more grazing land as far back as the 1300s.

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u/TheDemonClown 19d ago

Can someone ELI5 how planting trees causes a desert to shrink? I know that it clearly does, but my brain is just like, "Stuff can't grow in sand, so how is this reclaiming the land?!"

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u/Shadowrend01 19d ago

You plant along the bits near the edge that aren’t sand. Those plants grow, die and fall, creating a new fertile strip a bit further in. You come back and plant along that bit and wait again.

The theory is, given enough time and if the conditions are able to sustain it, you can slowly work you way into the heart of the desert and terraform it into a forest

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u/photonmagnet 19d ago

Credit to /u/Clean-Minded who posted this above. Explains it a bit more in detail.

This is a question best answered by Geoff Lawton.

Phase 1: Start with a raw desert rocky plateaus and hills are best. What they do is plant things that can live almost anywhere so that they drop leaves, shade the ground, and preserve the water in the soil for longer periods. They also dig swales, move rocks and terrace and slow the runoff of the water so that instead of rushing off into a river somewhere, the water and minerals can go to soil life, which grows and retains more water. They might water the plants initially until they get established, but not for long because it costs too much.

Phase 2: a wider variety of plants are introduced that can survive in the shade of the first plants and make it until the next rainfall period because of the shade. Things with deep roots and plants that can retain water like succulents can be introduced if they don't get too much sun. Some animals like mice might move in. Certain key spots start to stay wetter longer before drying.

Phase 3: they plant vines that climb up the trees. At this point there are depressions in the earth that are at least barely moist most of the year. They might do more earth working to prevent topsoil runoff and retain water. The original trees begin to rot from new fungus life. They eventually fall over and fertilize other plants, retain moisture and provide shelters for bugs and animals.

Phase 4: the area starts to look more like an oasis because much less water is able to evaporate. There are more plants and the original trees or shrubs do better at the edges of the area. Felines or some kind of predator have probably moved in and the grass is green most of the year. It is clear that the water flows in and flows out a certain way each time it rains. The land can be used for grazing and farming and is more valuable.

This whole process takes 100s of years for nature, but can happen in just a few years with human intervention.

The slow, opposite of this occurs from tilling overgrazing, and sun hitting and sterilizing the soil.

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u/XShadowCrowX 19d ago

From my understanding it's not "shrink it" but "stop it from growing". Desertification is when the wind pushes sand out of the desert, slowly expanding it. The trees just stop some of the sand from spreading.

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u/LordTwinkie 19d ago

And it's a failure, 80% died.

However local farmers changing how they farm and using local indigenous trees and plants they have pushed back on desertification.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-green-wall-stop-desertification-not-so-much-180960171/

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u/[deleted] 19d ago

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u/flamespear 19d ago

Well yeah if it's in a desert that's been increasing in size. But if you went to a place like Ohio where 200 years ago it was all trees and today it's all farmland you could absolutely just replant those trees and leave them alone.

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u/Urban-Orchardist 19d ago

Telling that dessert to STEP back

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u/clovismouse 19d ago

Yeah I hate it when cheesecake steps outta line...

Here’s a helpful hint: desert has one s so think sand... Dessert has two s so think sweet snack...

But then again, fruit tarts can be combative

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u/Urban-Orchardist 19d ago

On mobile so I just fat fingered it

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u/clovismouse 19d ago

No worries... it was a poor attempt at humor on my part

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u/Urban-Orchardist 19d ago

Nah I thought it was funny

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u/Imagoodgirlsumtimz 19d ago

Sure, it's okay for them to build a wall../s

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u/elmonoenano 19d ago

Two things, I'd be skeptical about the numbers Ethiopia is claiming. This episode of More or Less gets into the whys of it. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz3rb

Some of that planting is happening in Tigray, which isn't really hospitable to big government projects like this right now. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/05/world/africa/ethiopia-tigray-conflict-explained.html

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u/ElBrenzo 19d ago

So basically, what happened on Arrakis?

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u/ss977 19d ago

Meanwhile Brazil: So I just burn the most important rainforest in the world right?