Are expanding deserts a problem? What can we do about desertification?

This article is about desertification, nature, and a greener planet.

This note was added on 4/23/2023:  Some deserts are shrinking, not expanding. The higher concentrations of CO2 are making the planet greener because carbon-dioxide fertilizes plants. It is important to note that deserts are a natural occurrence but CO2 emissions are not natural. Despite plants thriving in a hotter CO2-rich environment, CO2 levels are continuing to rise.

  •  We need a greener planet to sustain life. Desertification displaces people every day.
  • How to use Nature and her ecosystems to regrow barren land.
  • Managing water is our responsibility. We over-use and pollute water but we can easily modify this behavior.

We need a greener planet: If you watch the growing deserts and their destructiveness, you get a sense of urgency to the situation. Desertification displaces about one thousand people per day.1  Expanding deserts exacerbate global warming and feeds on itself. Not to worry though, there is a way out. We can do something about it, and we need to do something before our lands waste away.

Nature and her ecosystems: There are ways and means to transform arid areas into lush green land. The catch is that harnessing nature is work. There is no terra-forming machine as depicted in science fiction movies. And botany, as it turns out, is complicated.

Before you go out and plant a grove of trees, which is a good thing by-the-way, there are considerations. Consider that plants, like humans, can catch diseases, and that specialized diseases do well when there are hosts cloistered together. Therefore, spread them around. Next, trees have created a symbiotic relationship with nature and need to be part of the ecosystem. That ecosystem requires living soil with bacteria and fungus to support the life of the tree. Trees don’t do well in dead sand.

Back before the earth was green, fungi and mushrooms were the first signs of life.4 Fungi is part of the ecosystem that all vegetation depends2. If you see mushrooms popping up in your yard for instance, it’s a sign the soil is healthy. The relationship between soil and fungi becomes clearer when farmers crops do better after cultivating certain types of fungi.7

Making crops of one species is prone to disease and pestilence. For example, a rubber tree plantation in Thailand was a sole crop and devastated by disease.3 In the more advanced permaculture gardens, you see various plants comingled. This strategy helps prevent the pests and diseases taking over. Caring for and keeping the plants healthy is important, because like us, if they are healthy, they are more resistant to diseases.

Even though there are considerations, do not let this stop you from experimenting with nature and observing it. As the saying goes, “Don’t try for perfection.” Expect failure and grow with the experience. The goal is support nature as much as you can. With a heightened public awareness, we can all share a greener planet.

Gardening is a magical experience. Planting a seed and watching it sprout is miraculous and exciting for most. Once we get our hands in living soil, we make an undeniable connection with nature. There is an exchange of life that is fundamental. It is a source of delight that is uplifting and adds to overall health of most individuals. When gardens thrive, the earth benefits with rich soil and water retention- a win-win you might say.

Another approach to combating desertification is using modern permaculture techniques of farming. As grazing animals are led from pasture to pasture, even when those pastures are almost lifeless, their manure enriches the soil. Shortly after, poultry feast on insects growing in the dung. The farmer leads the chickens along the grazing trail. The poultry leave behind their manure, further enriching the soil. Soon, plants thrive in the enriched soil, and fauna appear in the growing ecosystem. Sand turns to soil, brown turns to green.

Locusts can contribute to desertification by wiping out vegetation in drier lands.5 A natural solution is to herd thousands of specialized chickens by a worker tossing out treats from a moving flatbed. As the flocks of birds chase the tractor, they also feast on the locusts. A bonus of course are roasters at the end of their cycle.6

Water management is our responsibility: Finally, there is water management. Beavers trench out creeks to make dams. The dams maintain an ecosystem that preserves water naturally. Humans, however, need regulations to support water management. Left to our own devices, we will wreak disaster on nature and the water supply. Often the government needs to step in with preventative measures, like water rationing, preventing waste dumping in rivers and streams, and enforcing water rights laws. We can, on the other hand, get into the act, for example, by watching our usage, making a rain barrel, or using drought resistant vegetation on our lawns instead of watering grass.

The future will be much brighter if only we can get motivated to help the planet a little bit. It is never too late to turn the tide against desertification. As we take on a more responsible role relative to mother nature, we can reap the benefit of a greener and sustainable planet.

References:

  1. 10 Crazy Facts About Desertification
  2. Benefits of Fungi for the Environment and Humans
  3. Top rubber producer Thailand hit by fungal disease outbreak
  4. Fungi Are Responsible For Life On Land As We Know It
  5. Locust Swarms, Agricultural Shifts, and Forced Migration: The Dangers of Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa
  6. How does China deal with locust plague Use the Chicken
  7. Fungi can improve agricultural efficiency and sustainability

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