I’ve been holding off on my willow-building experiment because I couldn’t quite decide whether our native black willow (Salix nigra) was too tree-like (eventual height 33 to 98 feet) to keep small in the format of a living sculpture. Then, while out hunting cattail spears for lunch, I stumbled across a stand of what are probably planted purple willows (Salix purpurea) and decided that this smaller (up to 15 feet), introduced species would be easier to keep within bounds.
I just participated in a restoration project a few days ago in the local Lagunitas Watershed in Marin County, CA as part of the Ecology/Plant Biology class I’m taking. Part of the project is to transplant willow cuttings from one area of a seasonal tributary creek to the devegetated shores of the creek just downstream. The idea is to get a root system going that will shore up the steep sides of the creek to as so decrease sediment falling into the tributary (saving salmon-spawning habitat). The 1-inch thick cuttings (2-5ft tall) that were put in a month or so ago have a nice little amount of vegetation on them already. The cuttings we transplanted last week were instead nestled horizontally in the soil along the creek bank. It was enjoyable.
The economics are clear. The benefits of trees far outweigh the cost of planting and maintaining them. Restoring 350 million hectares to contain global warming requires between $79 and $130 Bn (or an average $7 Bn per annum over the next 15 years.
In 2014, global GDP amounted to about 77.3 trillion U.S. dollars, this total investment to contain global warming represents merely 0,001% of 1 years’ global GDP or 0,08% of 1 years’ global military spending.
If creative mechanisms where private contributions are matched by public grants can be developed, like in the WeForest Zambia project where a grant from Finland (CSEF) is covering 60% of the project costs, corporates will enjoy a huge positive impact with a minimal investment. Ask us about this opportunity to contribute in Zambia.
 Global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices from 2010-2020 (in billion U.S. dollars): Statista. (2015),
Figure 3.1: Portulacaria afra Jacq. (spekboom) tree. Notice the skirt of rooted branches
Spekboom multiplication for combating desertification
by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM
Ghent University (Belgium)
One of the most interesting African plant species used to combat desertification, limiting soil erosion, producing a dense vegetation cover and a remarkable number of small, edible leaves (fodder, but also vitamin-rich food for humans), is the Spekboom or Elephant’s Bush (Portulacaria afra).
This plant species is swiftly covering dry, eroding soils and should be recommended to all global projects for alleviation of drought, combat of land degradation and halting of wind erosion.
My good friend Johan VAN DE VEN of Bamboo Sur was so kind to offer me some rooted cuttings. These are growing very well in pots and PET-bottles in my garden in Belgium.
In order to study different ways of multiplication of this Spekboom (with succulent branches and leaves), I started taking off small lateral shoots (cuttings) and planted them in some potting soil in a cake box. I also planted some of the succulent leaves (see my photos below).
Within the plastic cake box humidity is kept high (condensation of droplets on the cover). Therefore, I opened the cover from time to time to let some fresh air (oxygen) in.
Quite soon both the cuttings and the separate leaves started rooting. The cuttings swiftly developed some new leaves. A month later I transplanted them into small plastic bottles, twice perforated 2-3 cm above the bottom (for drainage, keeping a small quantity of water at the bottom for moistening the bottle’s content and the rootball).
Once fully rooted within the plastic bottle, I cut off the bottom of the bottle to set the lower part of the rootball free. Then I planted the young Spekboom in a plant pit without taking off the plastic bottle, sitting as a plastic cylinder around the rootball. That plastic cylinder continued to keep the rootball moistened (almost no evaporation) and it offered possibilities to water the sapling from time to time, whenever needed. Irrigation water runs through the plastic cylinder towards the bottom of the rootball, growing freely in the soil (irrigation water directed towards the roots growing into the soil at the bottom of the plant pit). Thus a high survival rate was guaranteed.
It is clear that multiplication of the Spekboom with rooting cuttings and leaves is very easy. It is another interesting aspect of this remarkable plant. I can only recommend a broader use of the Spekboom for reforestation, fodder production and even production of bonsais for enhancement of the annual income (export to developed countries).
Here are some photos of this experiment.
—————-Considering that people working at the Great Green Wall in Africa (or any other interested group on other continents) are looking for practical solutions to cover as soon as possible huge areas of a desertified region, one is tempted to believe that setting up nurseries to produce a sufficient number of plants should not be a problem (as these plants only need a minimum of water).
I keep dreaming of successes booked with this nice edible plant species in the combat of desertification. The day will come that the Elephant bush will be growing in all the drought-affected regions of the world. Animals will eat from it, but also malnourished children and hungry adults will find it an interesting supplement to their food.
A CIFOR scientist (left) inspects Arenillo seeds collected by a Kichwa timber producer. These seeds will be replanted by the farmer to reforest his land in Napo Province, Ecuador. Tomas Munita/CIFOR Photo
New global forest restoration initiatives – such as the Bonn Challenge, Initiative 20×20, AFR100, the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Targets – present an unparalleled opportunity to reverse the trend of deforestation and forest degradation in the coming years. However, those who work in forest restoration have countless stories of failed projects. How can we minimize these failures, learn from other restoration initiatives and build success from the ground up?
Restoration experts agree: monitoring is essential to restoration success. But is monitoring being given enough attention in the current major global initiatives?
Restoring lands and livelihoods in Burkina Faso: The business of one association
Effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities and women in ecosystem restoration is one of the three main principles of the Action Plan on Ecosystem Restoration that the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity are expected to adopt at their next Conference in Cancun in December. Effective participation is both the ends and means of ecosystem restoration, but is not easily achieved.
A Burkinabè association tiipaalga (meaning ‘new tree’) has worked with the country’s farmers for over a decade to help them bring their degraded lands back to life. The organization’s aim is to help improve ecosystems for the purpose of improving the well-being of local households. The organization considers – and calls – farmers its partners. Mr Alain Traoré, Director of tiipaalga, shares insights from his long-term efforts in fostering farmer-led restoration initiatives in Burkina Faso.
This is the fifth blog in the CBD COP13 Forest and Landscape Restoration Blog Serieshighlighting why mainstreaming agricultural and tree biodiversity in sustainable food and production systems is critical to achieve the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, with a particular focus on forest and landscape restoration.
Q: What is tiipaalga’s approach in supporting farmers?
A: Our main approach is assisted natural regeneration, which is a low-cost forest restoration method aimed at accelerating growth of existing natural regeneration by removing competition from weeds and other disturbances and creating a more favorable micro-environment for growth. In some cases, if natural regeneration is not sufficient, planting of valuable species to supplement the existing tree populations (enrichment planting) can be carried out.
While we support planting trees, we recommend farmers only plant in small numbers, to allow them to maintain the trees. There is no point in planting one million trees which we cannot tend. It’s better to plant 10 trees per year and in 50 years we will have all we want. We want our partners [farmers] to be sure to be able to care for their trees so they can bring life; as our slogan says: “a tree for life”.
Hunndreds of carefully cultivated young native trees and shrubs are taking root at Carlsbad’s Lake Calavera Preserve where a grove of invasive Mexican fan palms was recently cut down and hauled away.
A wide palette of trees and plants — oaks and cottonwoods, marsh elder and lizard tail — was installed at the preserve this week as part of a habitat restoration project coordinated by the city.
The palms may have been pretty, but in wildlife areas such as the preserve, they are a nuisance that attracts rats and other rodents, while crowding out desirable native plants and animals, officials said.
“You give them an inch, and they’ll take an acre,” said Eddie Rosas, a foreman for Habitat Restoration Sciences, the company hired by Carlsbad to tackle the replanting project.
The restoration project is designed to compensate for vegetation removed as part of the maintenance of the Lake Calavera dam. The preserve, with more than six miles of public hiking trails, is on the northeastern end of Carlsbad near the Oceanside border and is notable for the ancient volcanic cone at its center.
Most of the trees planted this week were willow cuttings. Workers took hundreds of cuttings from three types of willows — arroyo, red and black — already growing in the preserve and then stored the inch-thick, 4-foot-long cuttings for a week in buckets of water, like flowers in a vase.
High levels of poverty, low water availability, deforestation and land degradation are fuelling conflicts among communities in East Africa.
Faced with growing degradation that is swallowing large swathes of land in arid and semiarid areas, Kenya is heavily investing in rehabilitation efforts to stave off the threat of desertification.
Charles Sunkuli, secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, says a programme targeting 5.1 million hectares of degraded and deforested land for restoration by 2030 was launched in September 2016. He added that Kenya is increasing its forest cover from the current seven percent to a minimum of 10 percent.
“We have introduced an equalisation fund to help communities living in dry and degraded lands eke out at a living and participate in rehabilitation initiatives,” said Sunkuli.
He was speaking in Nairobi during the Fifteenth Session of the Committee of Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which concluded last week.
Afforestration, he noted, will mainly be done in the country’s arid and semiarid areas which make up 80 percent of Kenya’s land cover, although other areas of the country to are being targeted too.
To succeed in its ambitious endeavour, Sunkuli said Kenya is implementing a programme to promote drought-tolerant tree species such Melia volkensii (locally known as Mukau) in the country’s vast drylands to increase forest cover.
Indeed, Kenya is heavily investing in research into drought resistant trees to enhance afforestration of dry lands and improve livelihoods. At Tiva in the dry Kitui County, eastern Kenya, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) has established a research centre to breed tree species ideal for planting in arid and semiarid areas. The centre is supported by the government in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).