Friday, January 07, 2011

Bombing the Planet with Tree Seedlings: Terraforming Earth?

In most modern forestry operations in the developed world, at least 5 new seedlings are planted for each tree that is cut down. But in the third world, the emerging world, and in the non-forestry world, there is plenty of room for planting new trees.

MIT researcher Moshe Alamaro wants to pull fleets of old military transports and bombers out of mothballs, and use them to bombard the planet with special tree seedling bomblets.
Alamaro collaborated with U.S. aerospace company Lockheed Martin in the late ’90s to replace the tedious and back-breaking work of manually planting trees by dropping saplings from the sky. The idea, which could see nearly one million trees planted per day, was based on research done at the University of British Columbia in the 1970s. The concept involved using a small fertilizing plane to drop saplings in plastic pods one at a time from a hopper. But it wasn’t very fruitful—most pods hit debris during pilot tests and failed to actually take root.

“It was pretty crude,” says Dennis Bendickson, a forestry professor at UBC, who was a student when the first tests were conducted. He says the upgraded idea, which is meant to create new forests on empty landscapes instead of debris-strewn cuts, “could get success rates of probably 90 per cent.”

The process Alamaro advocates places trees in metal pods that rot on contact with the ground, instead of the low-tech and less sturdy plastic version. He says the process can be adapted to plant shrubs, and would work best in places with clear, loose soil, such as sub-desert parts of the Middle East, or newly habitable Arctic tundra opened up by global warming. “What is needed is government policy to use old military aircraft,” he says, adding that thousands are in hangars across the globe. _Macleans
Observant persons will recognise the undercurrent of climate hysteria which runs beneath most proposals such as this. Unfortunately, large scale geoengineering projects are as likely to plunge the planet into a new ice age as they are to improve living conditions for the planet's lifeforms.

Nevertheless, there are large areas of the third world that have been stripped bare by human and other animal plant-abusers. Large areas of borderline desert could be transformed into more diverse habitats by wise re-vegetation policies. Perhaps even profitable food or biomass farms can be seeded and re-seeded economically using this approach.

Certainly the experiment is worth performing.

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