Combating desertification with “water box” planting

The Cabildo de Gran Canaria are combating  desertification using the LIFE+ project Green Link that experimentally introduces a “cocoon system”, using 100% biodegradable “water boxes”, to promote tree growth in arid areas of the Island. The project, which has funding of €333,000, will continue until 2020.

The Minister of Environment, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, explained that “the lack of availability of water, together with rising temperatures and the scarcity of rains increase the risk of desertification and therefore forest fires, so more than ever we must develop adaptation measures that reduce the vulnerability of our ecosystems and strengthen the resilience of our land.”

A total of 4,000 trees will be planted. 2,000 specimens of Canarian pine, sabinas, olive trees and almácigo have been planted over the last winter, and this spring, the planting of another 2,000 trees of the same species has begun. All this on the island farm of Tifaracás, in the municipality of Artenara, one of the most arid areas on the island of Gran Canaria.

The price of each Cocoon, or pot made of recycled paperboard, is around €8 and its excellent cost-efficiency in water use will facilitate the design of new strategies for large-scale reforestation in areas where irrigation is very difficult or impossible. The project, it is hoped, will increase the rate of survival of the plantations in these areas from the current 20% to more than 90%.

Within the same project, 200 trees will also be planted without cocoons to evaluate the differences between them and thus be able to verify the effectiveness of the mechanism. In addition, monitoring will be carried out to measure biodiversity and soil status, while at the same time assessing the impact of climate change and resilience for the future.

It is a project working alongside current EU policies and legislation, such as the EU’s climate change adaptation strategies (carbon sequestration, soil conservation), and the EU’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, among others.

LIFE+ The Green Link is being developed in collaboration with other partners from mainland Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece and Holland, and in addition to Gran Canaria another 30,000 trees will be planted in 5 locations throughout Spain, Greece and Italy. However, the most arid area in which the system is going to be tested in the most extreme conditions will be on Gran Canaria.