The General objective of The Green Deserts project is to offer a feasible solution for adaptation of planting methods to one of the most devastating consequences of climate change: desertification of areas which used to be lungs for the capture of CO2, sources of food production and landscape.
More specifically, during the project’s lifetime, the first objective is to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of large-scale application of an innovative technology for planting of trees in desertified, poor and/or rocky areas: the waterbox. This objective is considered to be achieved if survival rates of the planted trees in such areas are largely higher than the ones achieved with conventional planting methods, and if the involved resources to obtain such success rates are lower than with conventional planting methods. Moreover, the second objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of cultivation of Hedera with this device, to facilitate its application for the capture of CO2 and fine powder alongside highways.
The device has been very successfully experimented in the Sahara. In order to use the technology on large scale, it appeared necessary to develop and test a more sophisticated new prototype and an auxiliary capillary drill. Within the project, this prototype will be realised in biopolymer, and the project aims to demonstrate that this improved technology will favour the technical and economic feasibility of large-scale application by adding new environmental and economic advantages and allow for use in the cultivation of Hedera and trees in remote areas.
Third specific objective of the project is to clarify on larger scale, with the novelties purposely developed to facilitate such scale, should clarify for which soils, trees and by which application methods the best results can be obtained for differentiated scopes like agriculture, reforestation and restoration of eco-systems. Last objective is to offer sufficient proof of concept to be broadly disseminated to potential target groups, in order to pave the way for broad introduction of the technology in view of combating the disastrous effects of climate change on the natural environment.
The waterbox is an innovative tool which restores the sponge function of degraded soils and enforces the existing capacities of the soil and the plants itself. The waterbox is an ‘intelligent water bucket’ that captures water from the air through rain and condensation. The condensation is enforced by artificial stimulation and the water is captured through physical capacities of the box, without any use of energy. The device recovers the capturing capacity of sweet water avoiding it from evaporation or from being transported through rivers to the see. It allows to grow plants on dry soil or rocks with limited water supply, avoiding the necessity to create expensive and water and energy consuming irrigation systems.
The device could also offer an interesting solution for planting in places where irrigation is difficult and thus expensive to realise: the project will include testing the device to Hedera, which, planted alongside highway fences captures fine powder and CO2 emissions from traffic.
The results of experimental testing of the latest version of the waterbox in the Sahara were outstanding: 88,2% of the trees performed good growth and 11,8 % weak; whilst of the control group planted without any specific device 10,5 % grow relatively well while 89,5 % was dead after one year (none of the groups received irrigation). Through further development of the waterbox to a Twinboxx the planting results should be able to be lifted to above 95%.
In terms of future impact, large-scale introduction of the proposed technology, possible once the optimal conditions of large-scale application have been thoroughly assessed and once the innovation is sufficiently known amongst target groups, will contribute to solving a variety of environmental problems, in the drier areas of southern and eastern Europe as well as in even more critical territories in the world, like Africa.
Thus the project aims to demonstrate on a realistic scale, within the 5 test locations, that the long-term objectives which can be achieved by the technology are:
- improvement of soils by stimulating the natural capacities of plants;
- improvement of success rates of planting in eroded and desert areas to above 95%;
- reconstruction of forests in desertified areas, capable of absorbing large amounts of our CO2 emissions;
- restoration of desertified agricultural land to economic profitability, increasing the economic opportunities in rural areas and thus combating their abandonment
- reduction of water and energy use, as the technology does not require any type of irrigation
- reduction of fine powder and CO2 emissions by traffic, by facilitating planting of the always-green Hedera alongside highways
- restoration of eco-systems facilitating the planting of indigenous and endangered species in desertified or otherwise damaged territories.
- possibly planting all year round, offering long-term employment and larger time spans for cultivation and reforestation.