Welcome to Reforestation.me, a site about practical cost-effective solutions, techniques and systems for reforestation, environmental restoration, agricultural, and social/poverty issues.
The site features ideas and inventions from around the world, including Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, permaculure, agroforestry, Zai holes, seedballs, Arborloos, Holistic Management/Planned Grazing, natural sequence farming, and my own Animal Improved Dung plus seeds (the AID treatment/invention) and the “Zai hole biochar cycle”.
December 2018. Please see the new page “Photos lichens and Mosses”, with new photos taken in the Goblin Forest in Tasmania.
Please see the new “Zai Hole Training Session Photos” page, which has photos of a Zai hole training session held by Pastor Salim Shaban in Africa, for school children in Kenya.
November 2018. A brief critical analysis of the 2018 IPCC report and subsequent media reports on the “Environment Quotes” page.
October 2018. Some new poster backgrounds at the bottom of the “Environment Posters” page.
May 30 2018. Please see the Zai holes page where a small Zai hole experiment in Kenya using an idea of mine to place newspaper at the base of the hole to hold water and nutrients for longer has increased the yield of green beans by 300%!
Please see the new “Seedballs” page.
The site is also about at least partial solutions to possible climate change, regardless of its direction or cause, through reforestation and carbon sequestration, and the potential for greater success in reforestation and agricultural production because of increased atmospheric Co2. For more on research into Co2 and plant growth and climate change, visit Co2science.org.
The reforestation work done by the Salgado family and the Instituto Terra in Brazil is amazing and inspiring! Click here for more, and see the dvd “Salt of the Earth”: www.institutoterra.org/eng/
The photos below show what they achieved in just a few years:
New Zai holes project
October 2018: Placing 20 sheets of newspaper at the base of zai holes increased the yield of green beans by 300%! Experiment carried out by Salim Shaban et al in Western Kenya.
Below is a concept outline for using zai holes, fuel efficient stoves and biochar for co2 fixation and long term carbon sequestration:
David Clode 10 May 2018.
Research update – feeding biochar to cows to disperse biochar, with dung beetles incorporating it into soils. 23 April 2018.
In 2010 I invented a system of using livestock for soil improvement and revegetation/reforestation. I call this the “Animal Improved Dung” (AID) plus seeds system of treatments and wrote an article about it. Recent scientific research has proven some of my proposals: biochar and molasses has been fed to cows, and then the manure with its biochar has been incorporated into the soil by dung beetles, resulting in improved productivity, and sequestration of carbon for thousands of years. For a PDF on the research, click here: Josephetal2015Pedosphere-Feedingbiochartocows
Reducing nitrogen losses by mixing urea with molasses
Research by Dr. Pam Pittaway et al, reported by the ABC, shows that mixing urea with molasses reduced the leaching losses of nitrogen fertilizer. “About 37 per cent of the nitrogen from the molasses-blended fertilizer was still in the soil four months after application, compared to just 27 per cent with granular fertilizer”. For small hold farmers in developing countries, the likely implication is that applying a liquid fertilizer made from human urine and molasses would provide a cheap, effective, and long lasting fertilizer, which would be well suited to pouring into plastic bottles with holes in them, that are placed in Zai holes for irrigation and fertilization. This should work for both crops and reforestation.
Research paper on the positive benefits to mental health of exposure to nature
A research paper by scientists at the University of Exeter in England and published in the journal Bioscience, has demonstrated what most of us intuitively knew already: that exposure to nature (in this case specifically related to vegetation cover and observing bird activity in the afternoon) is good for mental health. Given the enormous costs to government/tax payers of poor mental health, this provides a powerful case for much more government funding for reforestation and plant landscaping generally, including in workplaces, especially in or near populated areas. Click here for the paper: biw173
See the pages on this site which cover topics which could apply to nature/plants/birds and reducing the costs to society of poor mental health, e.g., wetlands, vertical gardening, living fences.
Anti-poaching camouflage and conserving endangered wildlife
I am also passionate about conserving endangered wildlife, as well as biodiverse ecosystems as a whole. You may find it interesting to visit my site https://camouflagepatterns.wordpress.com/ to find out more. Anti-poaching rangers risk their lives to protect elephants, rhinos, tigers, etc., from poachers. They are often poorly equipped, and commonly wear camouflage which is not very effective, for example, green in dry terrains/the dry season. I have designed multiple camouflage patterns specifically for them, to increase their chances of survival, and to help them be more effective in their work protecting endangered wildlife. See the photos below, which show a typical situation, and a mockup of one of my designs:
I am prepared to donate one of my designs (non-exclusive use) per conservation group. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are looking for funding for a tree planting or other reforestation project, you may find this site helpful: http://info.tree-nations.com/planters
Francisco Granados contacted me and informed me of their work, providing funding through sponsors and crowdfunding for tree planting projects around the world.
INTRODUCTION – Reforestation, environmental restoration, and increasing agricultural productivity
“Ideas are the root of creation.” Ernest Dimnet.
“The man with a new idea is a crank – until the idea succeeds.” Mark Twain.
Despite all the doom-and-gloom, there is hope for the future. In the past few decades ingenious new techniques/systems have been developed, coupled with greatly increased knowledge and understanding of ecosystems, making it possible to achieve much more, at lower cost and in less time, in reforestation and increasing agricultural productivity.
This site presents some of these more recent developments and innovations, especially: Farmer managed natural regeneration (click on the FMNR button at the top of the page, and see AgNotes. FMNR3), Holistic management/planned grazing (click on the button at the top of the page, and see hol mgt , repairing eroded gullies with planned grazing), the Animal Improved Dung plus seeds system (AID treatment – click on the button at the top of the page, and see the article here: aid-savory-3rd, or at the bottom of this page), Mixed improved fallows and complementary plant associations (click on the “Mixed Improved Fallows ” page), Evergreen Agriculture and Evergeen Farming (see the “Articles” page), also: protecting people, livestock and property from wild fires, Arborloos, Zai holes, biochar and making Terra preta, etc.
Many of these techniques, inventions and systems can potentially work together synergistically, to restore and even enhance vegetation and the environment, build soils through increasing organic matter and fertility, increase agricultural productivity, and last but not least, alleviate poverty, which in turn tends to reduce environmental degradation.
The illustration below shows plant succession, a natural “healing” process. This can be hastened and facilitated to help in reforestation projects, and for soil improvement to increase agricultural productivity (e.g. mixed improved fallows):
Wildlife can and often does play a part in the above process of succession, and domestic livestock can also be utilised. Below is a photo demonstrating that livestock can be used to improve soils and plant growth:
We can work with nature to reforest and restore or even enhance the environment. As can be seen from the photo above, domestic livestock can be used to improve soils and establish and enhance the growth of vegetation (planned grazing of livestock and the AID plus seeds system of treatments). Where livestock are not available, or as an additional technique, seed balls and planting can be used to establish grasses, groundcovers, trees etc. See the “AID plus seeds” article below, pg. 26; and “Direct seeding Faidherbia albida“, pgs. 4 and 5, (Direct seeding Faidherbia albida in the Sahel final), and the “Reforestation Methods” page, for more on using seedballs. If acted upon, these innovative techniques and management philosophies mean that it is possible to restore or even enhance the environment, including forests, grassy woodlands, grasslands, soils and microclimates; as well as dramatically increase food/agricultural production. This would raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world, which in turn has the added advantage of reducing deforestation.
Reforestation, deforestation and agriculture
Land clearing for agriculture, including slash-and-burn agriculture, is a major cause of deforestation worldwide. By contrast, including trees within agricultural cropping and pastoral systems can increase productivity, biodiversity and ecological stability.
Including trees and other plants, as an over-storey, and as windbreaks/living fences, connecting corridors, multi-species pastures etc., effectively extends the forests/natural vegetation, and usually reduces deforestation pressure on existing natural forests/vegetation. Regarding the causes of deforestation: “The FAO/UNEP forest survey found that 45 per cent of the deforestation in the 76 tropical countries in the survey was caused by shifting cultivation”; and “Shifting cultivation was responsible for 70 per cent of the deforestation of tropical Africa” (Ooi 1993). “Most forest conversion to agricultural land in Africa is due to clearance by subsistence farmers. A sustained elevation in smallholder crop productivity through expansion of Evergreen Agriculture can result in significant co-benefits by providing a basis for reducing the overall rate of deforestation on the continent (Garrity et al 2010). Soils, agricultural land and biodiversity can also be improved with, for example, Evergreen Farming, see www.amazingcarbon.com., intercropped legumes, and rotations of mixed, improved fallows (see photos 4, and Garrity et al (2010) below).
Since there is an ever-increasing demand for food, and most countries only possess a small percentage of arable land (land with soil and climate good enough to grow crops) and a high percentage of rangeland (land which is not good enough to grow crops, but can still produce food/products from livestock – in Australia and Kenya it is high – about 80% of the land)…it makes sense to concentrate environmental restoration/enhancement efforts on the rangeland, and to use the livestock to do it. This is working smart rather than hard, turning what is normally perceived as a problem (overgrazing from set-stocking) into a solution, is relatively simple, and can be achieved quickly and cost-effectively with the AID plus seeds system and planned grazing/holistic management, and FMNR.
Increased agricultural productivity, whether it be food from crops or livestock, reduces the need to cut down forests, so that natural forests and other ecosystems can be set aside and protected – see “Increasing agricultural productivity” and the quotes by Gocklany, Budiansky, and Lomborg further down this page. This is called “land sparing” (Lindenmayer et al, 2012) and, while not a panacea, it can be combined with “biodiversity-friendly farming”/”wildlife-friendly farming”, to conserve or enhance biodiversity, and at the same time, increase agricultural productivity. With creative, lateral-thinking solutions, biodiversity/conservation and productivity are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and there is even the possibility of synergy… “Eco-agriculture or agriculture based on traditional crops and traditional land use practices, and principles of agroforestry can not only increase ecosystem services and productivity on farms (Scherr and McNeely 2008), but also have a positive impact on wild biodiversity”(Bawa et al, in Lindenmayer et al 2012, pge. 69). For example, the techniques/systems/solutions presented on this site may even be able to turn degraded rangeland into arable land, or, alternatively, to restore degraded environments to high biodiversity, near-natural forests/grassy woodlands, to be conserved for the future.
The Animal Improved Dung (AID) plus seeds system of treatments, where seeds and soil improvers are fed to livestock or wildlife, which then disperse the seeds and soil improvers in their dung, can be used as a reforestation technique to establish a buffer of protective indigenous vegetation around remnant natural vegetation, thus enlarging patches of indigenous vegetation (important for “deep forest” species, and many endangered species), and to establish corridors which link patches of remnant vegetation, enabling wildlife to move from one patch to another (and in the process of moving from one patch to another, they will disperse more seeds).
Ooi, Jin Bee. 1997. Tropical Deforestation. The Tyranny of Time. Singapore University Press. ISBN 997-69-183-3. Pgs. 24, 25
Deforestation, fuel wood, and fuel efficient stoves
Another major cause of deforestation is collecting fuel wood from forests for cooking and heating fires. Fuel efficient stoves reduce the amount of fuel wood needed, and so reduce deforestation.
These stoves can also use briquettes made from dried compressed waterweeds – see http://aconetwork.weebly.com, where water hyacinth is used to make fuel briquettes, and the juice is used to fertilize crops. In addition, the ash and charcoal the stoves produce can be ground to powder and, along with seeds, can be fed to livestock to disperse in their manure, and so increase soil fertility, store carbon in the soil, and aid the establishment of trees, grasses and other plants. In this way, a cause of deforestation can become an aid to reforestation. See the appendix in the AID article (pges 43-44) at the bottom of this page, for more.
Bush fires/forest fires
Plants can be used as protection against fires, and reduce the intensity of fires.
As an aside, another potential use for the AID plus seeds treatment and planned grazing is to reduce the problem of forest fires. Livestock can be used to reduce the fuel load of dry grass and leaves, twigs etc.(and thus the intensity of fires) by browsing and grazing. They can also be used to browse and so reduce the establishment and growth of highly flammable, fire-promoting plant species, (e.g. pines and eucalypts) and to introduce (from seeds in their dung) fire-retardant or at least low-flammability plant species. Vegetation can therefore be modified from being dominated by highly flammable, fire-promoting plant species, to vegetation which is dominated by low-flammability plants which do not promote fires or produce large quantities of highly flammable fuel for fires. For example, protective buffer strips of low-flammability vegetation could be established near or around human habitation – for more on this topic, and ways to protect people, animals and homes from fire, click on the “Forest Fire Shields” button at the top of the page, and visit the “Articles” page.
Reforestation, deforestation and increasing agricultural productivity – two blades of grass
Some quotes demonstrating the value of increasing agricultural productivity and the resultant reduction in deforestation:
“…increasing agricultural productivity would not only reduce conversion of wild land to new cropland, but it could return existing cropland back to nature. Increasing agricultural productivity is the single most effective method of preventing habitat loss and fragmentation, and conserving global forests, terrestrial biodiversity and carbon stocks and sinks.”
Indur M. Gocklany, 2003.
A similar quote from Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist:
“One of the main reasons we cut down natural habitats is to increase farming output for a growing population, so one proposed policy is to increase agricultural yields through research and development, making it possible to feed more people with less land. This is a controversial answer to the challenge of the loss of biodiversity but one which might do more, at lower cost, than our current efforts.”
Bjorn Lomborg (Avery, D: ‘Skeptical environmentalist Lomborg adopts high-yield farming.’ http://cfact.org/a/2010/Skeptical-environmentalist-Lomborg-adopts-highyield-farming .
“In India alone, improvements in wheat farming alone have spared 100 million acres of additional cropland that would otherwise have had to be slashed out of forests somewhere over the last 50 years to produce the same amount of wheat that Indian farmers produce today thanks to technological advances. That’s the equivalent of three Iowas or 50 Yellowstone National Parks. Without modern farming, we literally would have already cut down every acre of rainforest just to grow the staple food crops that feed the world. Would that be “sustainable”?”
Stephen Budiansky, in Delingpole, 2012. Killing the earth to save it. pp. 219, 220. This is largely due to Norman Borlaug’s work (the green revolution).
Lindenmayer, David; Cunningham, Saul; and Young, Andrew (Eds.). (2012). Land use intensification: effects on agriculture, biodiversity and ecological processes. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-4665-1714-1.
It is possible to “make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before”: for example; millet, sorghum and maize grown under the canopy of the tree, Faidherbia albida, can produce two to four times as much “corn” as the same crops grown in the open. Pasture grasses beneath this tree also grow better, with the addition of falling seedpods providing extra fodder for livestock (allowing higher stocking rates, even twice as high, producing yet more food). See, for example, Garrity et al (2010) “Evergreen Agriculture: a robust approach to sustainable food security in Africa”, pg. 201, at http://www.springerlink.com/content/km2157pp56158603/, and http://www.worldagroforestry.org/downloads/publications/PDFS/b09008.pdf.
Over more than a decade, an intercrop of nitrogen-fixing Gliricidia sepium (cut and used as mulch) in maize in Malawi, produced an average of 3.7 t/ha/yr of maize, compared with a control of .5-1t/ha/yr; see Garrity et al above, pg. 204.
In cooler climates, lucerne (alfalfa) can be grown in rows between vegetables, and cut and used to mulch the vegetables, increasing productivity, see the book “Out of the scientist’s garden”, by Richard Stirzaker.
After growing a mixed improved fallow including the fast-growing, deep-rooted tree Sesbania sesban, maize produces two to four times as much. Mucuna pruriens is another successful fallow or cover crop, improving soils and suppressing weeds. See the AID plus seeds article, pg. 28, and the article on Faidherbia albida, and pg. 202 of Garrity et al above, and http://ecoport.org/storedReference/559660.pdf.
The productivity increases in all three of the techniques above are due mostly, or at least in part to increasing the carbon (organic matter) level in the soil (which can also include long-lasting biochar, which could come from fuel-efficient stoves, and be dispersed by livestock, dung beetles and earth worms); and biological nitrogen-fixation.
Increasing the amount of organic matter in a soil is the single best thing that can be done to improve or build most soils in most places – see articles at http://www.amazingcarbon.com/ .
For more on mixed improved fallows/cover crops, click on the “Mixed Improved Fallows, green manure, succession” button at the top of this page.
Sesbania species could also be used in reforestation, especially in areas with degraded soils, and the seeds could be dispersed by livestock. Mixed improved fallows can improve soils and add mulch in degraded sites, increasing the growth of the following plants, not just for crops, but potentially before reforestation projects, and before and between forestry plantations.
Some other techniques which can increase plant productivity include greenhouse culture, carbon dioxide enrichment (see here: Plant response to Co2 enrichment), temperature control, light manipulation, fertilization, irrigation, windbreaks/shelter, managing pests and diseases, plant breeding and genetic modification, introducing appropriate mycorrhizal fungi and managing soils, vegetation and mulch to promote and maintain fungal associations, Rhizobia and free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and synergistic systems which include the prudent utilisation/management of livestock, dung beetles and earthworms (the Animal Improved Dung plus seeds treatment), etc.
For more on Mycorrhizal fungi see http://www.amazingcarbon.com/ and http://mycorrhizae.com/. The largest known living organism in the world is a fungus which covers and area of 9.6 square kilometres – see the “Environment Quotes” page.
In the photo above, earthworms are thriving in a moist spot under a mulch of leaves which have fallen from the nitrogen-fixing tree Adenanthera pavonina, and a Ficus species. Earthworm numbers can increase dramatically as the organic matter level in a soil rises. In turn they incorporate organic matter into the soil, improve aeration and water infiltration rates, their burrows/tunnels provide passages for root growth, and soil and organic matter passing through their gut makes nutrients more available, all of which greatly increases plant growth, which adds more organic matter, and so on.
For more on earthworms see pages 41 – 43 in the AID article at the bottom of this page, and for more on dung beetles, page 41; as well as the website dungbeetleexpert.com.au (click on “benefits”).
For more, click on the “Earthworm” page in the menu bar at the top of this page.
Some more quotes:
“A nation which destroys its soils destroys itself”
Theodore Rooseveldt, 1907.
“A nation which builds its soils builds itself”
David Clode, 2012.
“A nation which looks after its soils, looks after itself”
The Honourable Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. October 2018. (Australian Story, Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
It is very encouraging to hear this from a national leader. I am however proposing much more. It is possible to go much further: it is possible to actively build soils in an ongoing process, and thereby build nations. Many of the techniques to enable us to do this are on this website, including planned grazing/holistic management, the AID plus seeds treatment, mixed improved fallows, Natural Sequence Farming, etc.
Earthworms – “One trial found worms built an 18 cm thick topsoil in 30 years”
Rebecca Lines-Kelly, 2004.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent, it takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction”
E. F. Schumacher.
“The world’s soils hold around three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and over four times as much carbon as the vegetation”
“Organic carbon additions are governed by the volume of plant roots per unit of soil and their rate of growth. The more active green leaves there are, the more roots there are, the more carbon is added”
From the article “Building soil carbon with Yearlong Green farming” by Dr. Christine Jones – see http://www.amazingcarbon.com/ . It is also generally the case that the more carbon there is in the soil, the more active green leaves there are, the more roots there are, the more carbon is added, and so on. The green leaves themselves also die and fall to the ground, where their carbon is incorporated into the soil (and twigs, branches, tree trunks etc.).
Forests, transpiration, precipitation and climate change
Rain makes rain forests, and rain forests make rain. Transpiration (and evaporation) from plants adds to the water vapour in the air, and bacteria growing on the leaves become airborne and act as cloud condensation nuclei, forming larger water droplets, which in turn may fall as rain. Also, when clouds form on the tops of hills, trees on the tops of hills provide an enormous surface area on which moisture can condense, and then drip down to the soil, greatly increasing overall (sometimes more than doubling) precipitation, which is known as “cloud stripping” or occult precipitation. This additional water feeds in to streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. Some very good reasons not to cut down trees on hills, and to reforest hill tops and slopes.
Reforestation results in an increase in low-level clouds which reflect incoming solar radiation, and so reforestation indirectly ameliorates local microclimates. More reforestation covering larger areas equals more reflective low-level clouds, more rain and more cloud stripping. It follows that large-scale Worldwide reforestation could act as a buffer against possible global climate change (and extreme weather events), regardless of direction or possible cause, while sequestering carbon. This would be good for nearly everyone in every country, and less costly than other measures presently being promoted.
We need to reforest much larger areas than at present, and as soon and as quickly as possible. This calls for broadscale, cost-effective environmental restoration techniques, such as the Animal Improved Dung plus seeds treatment, planned grazing and farmer managed natural regeneration. Planting trees by hand has its place, but is not nearly enough. Click on the “Climate Change, Epiphytes, Waterplants” button above, and see pgs. 6-7 in the AID article, for more.
Some Photos: Free photos to download and print.
The photos, environment posters, paintings, articles etc. on this site are available for you to download (free), print, use as screensavers etc., but not to sell or for any commercial use. I plan to make some environment posters in the near future (and provide materials for you to make your own posters), which I hope people will print and put in public places such as schools and universities (and their own homes). Hopefully this will inspire and motivate more people to plant trees, become involved in reforestation, and adopt a more caring stewardship approach to the environment.
Eucalyptus tereticornis and other eucalyptus species, plus mulberries, mangoes, bananas, papaya etc. have been grown with great success on or next to arborloos, initially fertilized with diluted human urine. The end result can be an orchard of useful trees, such as fruit and nut trees, or perhaps a woodlot (see Peter Morgan’s wonderful work in Zimbabwe – click on the “Arborloo” button at the top of the page). Arborloos may prove to be an effective way to establish Faidherbia albida trees.
The beautiful, scented flower of Gustavia superba, from the rainforests of South America. For more photos of this beautiful flower, visit http://tracts4free.wordpress.com, and click on “Photos 4”. There are many more tropical flower photos, and bird photos available at Tracts4free.WordPress.com.
In any reforestation/revegetation project in the wet tropics, using a variety of figs is recommended. If multiple fig species are established, they will provide food for many wildlife species, spread over most of the year. Up to 44 species of birds and monkeys have been recorded visiting a single fruiting fig tree in a day (in South America, bbc.co.uk/planetearth.jungles, 2006). The photo above is Ficus racemosa, at Freshwater, Cairns, Australia. The figs are edible for people, but not as good as the Mediterranean fig, Ficus carica.
Butea monosperma, the Indian Flame of the Forest, is related to Erythrina (Coral trees), but is slower-growing. The flowers are rich in nectar, and attract birds and bees.
A female Yellow-bellied sunbird visits Odontonema strictum for nectar.
Amorphophallus titanum, the Titan arum lily, Cairns botanic gardens.
Reforestation (or reafforestation) is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as “To replant with trees: to cover again with forest”. On this site a much broader view of reforestation is taken including revegetation with grasses, herbs, climbers, other under- and middle-storey species, and epiphytes where appropriate.
Other related topics on this site include agroforestry, improving soils and climate, facilitating succession, food production/security, and other humanitarian concerns. Ideas, systems, and reforestation techniques are presented which should lead to a more beneficial and synergistic integration of people with livestock, wildlife, vegetation, soils and the environment generally.
My mother and I enjoy painting when we can – here are a few examples:
Lotus lily painting, Nelumbo nucifera. Acrylic painting on watercolour paper by David Clode. More: http://tracts4free.wordpress.com/water-lily-paintings/
An abstract expression of the pattern or design of the Clown triggerfish. For more on patterns and design in nature: http://tracts4free.wordpress.com/divine-designs-gods-creation/