Could Bacteria-Filled Balloons Stop the Spread of the Sahara? Architect Magnus Larsson Thinks So


photo: Istvan Vass via flickr

Nearly a year ago a "Great Green Wall" of trees was proposed to run across the entire southern border of the Sahara desert in an attempt to stop expanding desertification. At the TED Global conference in Oxford, England, architect Magnus Larsson proposes another, more solid, idea to stop the spread of the Sahara: Using bacteria-filled balloons to turn the dunes into a 6000km-long desert-break.

TED's pretty good at getting video up from their presentations, but at the time of this writing it wasn't yet available, so the BBC summary will have to do:

magnus larsson sahara photo

Bacterium Would Solidify Dunes Into Stone
Larsson proposes literally solidifying dunes, turning them into sandstone. This would be done not by thousands of years of normal geologic processes, but more quickly by flooding it with a bacterium commonly found in wetlands, Bacillus pasteurii. Larsson says that the bacterium, "is a microorganism which chemically produces calcite - a kind of natural cement."

magnus larsson sahara image

Balloons Would Be Popped Under Spreading Dunes
The bacterium would get into the dunes either by injecting it (on a massive scale) or by giant balloons filled with it -- these would be place in the way of the moving dunes, which would wash over the balloons, which in turn would be popped allowing the bacteria to get into the sand.

The whole thing would be a complement to the Great Green Wall of trees proposal.

Yes, More Challenges Than Solutions at This Point
OK, so if that all sounds too easy, too risky, too whatever, Larsson agrees insofar as there are more details to be worked out than not. He was quoted as saying that the idea is currently "fraught with challenges" but "it's a beginning; it's a vision."

What do TreeHugger readers think? Back to the drawing board for Larsson or bring on the balloons?

More: TED Global
images: DUNE: Arenaceous Anti-Desertification Architecture via flickr
More on Desertification
Wall of Trees Planned to Help Stop Sahara Desert from Expanding
Australia Takes Lead on Combatting Desertification
Desertification Engulfing Nouakchott in Mauritania

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