Ascension Island terraforming

beng(z6 western MD)February 22, 2013

Thought this was interesting from below link:

Ascension was an arid island, buffeted by dry trade winds from southern Africa. Devoid of trees at the time of Darwin and Hooker's visits, the little rain that did fall quickly evaporated away.

Egged on by Darwin, in 1847 Hooker advised the Royal Navy to set in motion an elaborate plan. With the help of Kew Gardens - where Hooker's father was director - shipments of trees were to be sent to Ascension.

The idea was breathtakingly simple. Trees would capture more rain, reduce evaporation and create rich, loamy soils. The "cinder" would become a garden.

So, beginning in 1850 and continuing year after year, ships started to come. Each deposited a motley assortment of plants from botanical gardens in Europe, South Africa and Argentina.

Soon, on the highest peak at 859m (2,817ft), great changes were afoot. By the late 1870s, eucalyptus, Norfolk Island pine, bamboo, and banana had all run riot.

Here is a link that might be useful: Charles Darwin's ecological experiment on Ascension isle

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smivies

Hasn't pretty much the reverse happened on Easter Island?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:13PM
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poaky1

Easter Island was over-forested by it's people, according to some shows on TV anyway. But you would think seeds that can float in the ocean such as Coconut palm would be deposited on the beaches. As far as this Ascension Island, how could these introduced plants get a foothold in the first place without irrigation? At least until they get established? After establishment the plants create this great ecosystem, like the rainforest.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 6:22PM
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WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

That's a cool story, thanks for passing along!

And Easter Is inhabitants cut down all their trees.

Aside but relevant, way back in the late 1800s the US Bureau of Reclamation had a huge afforestation scheme to un-desert the West so people could come out and farm. Some of the canals that were dug were for this purpose.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 6:37PM
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smivies

My point was....not only did people manage to wipe out the endemic forests, introduced rats ensured the extinction of the native tree species, and the loss of the trees reduced the condensation related precipitation to a level insufficient to support trees.

So, much like a pre-Kew Ascension Island, Easter Island is now too dry for trees and is waiting for English botanists to start a new experiment.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:46PM
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poaky1

WxDano, I never heard about what the rats did before. I can imagine they chewed up alot of wood. They weren't mentioned in past posts but yours.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 2:37AM
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poaky1

This may be stupid to educated plant people but why not plant some seeds on Easter Island? As I posted before, seeds of some palms float in the ocean and should have taken root. Most small Islands get flooded in Sunamis. You would think some seeds would have colonized Easter Island by now, unless it is too dry most of the year.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 2:44AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Poaky, I've seen some recent documentaries where there are some forested areas on Easter Island now -- including coconut palms.

Ascension Island was a newly formed, volcanic island that was at first uninhabited, barren and lifeless lava fields. Thoughtful people gave vegetation a big "kick-start", and it succeeded.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 8:51AM
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wisconsitom

That's very cool and is evidence of the fact that not every darn thing we humans do is destructive. For my part, I'd like to see some big agro-industry company begin colonizing some barren island somewhere with a palm oil plantation, instead of the current practice, which is to deforest a big chunk of rainforest for same purpose. Somebody, for instance, has plans to clear an area of forest in Cameroon, Africa, the size of ten Manhattans, for such a plantation. The same goes on every day in other tropical locales, most notably, Indonesia.

+oM

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:12PM
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greenthumbzdude

If I owned the island I would have turned it into a giant food forest. Mangoes,Oranges, Jackfruit, Lychee, Durian, and Cherimoya in the Canopy layer and bannanas, cocao, papayas, passionfruit, and pineapples in the understory. Every plant would have some edible or medicinal value. Since the island is isolated, diseases would be rare and there would be no other animals to eat your fruit.

This post was edited by greenthumbzdude on Mon, Feb 25, 13 at 15:30

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 3:27PM
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poaky1

I haven't heard any updates on Easter Is. besides what you've mentioned Beng. I would imagine that where there are some plants there will be more in the future with seeding mature future plants etc. I'm not scientific very much but, if Hawaii is a fertile place for plant-life, so should Ascension Island, I must admit I've never heard of it before this post. How did Hawaii go from lava crust on the ground to a place where all sorts of plants thrive?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:49PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Interesting post, beng.
I found a video with a tour of this part of the island. I hadn't heard of this Canadian series before, it's a shame they chose hosts who seem like such idiots at times.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_M1TnsOmIQ

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:58PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Neat video. Thanks for posting the link! It's the next best thing to actually being there I guess.

But, my favorite part...
Blond guy: "What's flora and fauna mean...where does that mean that...I've never heard that before."

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:42PM
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