Friday, September 30, 2016

Atmosphere's Carbon Dioxide Passes Key Level

This past month, the world’s longest running carbon dioxide measurement site measured atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to be above 400 parts per million.  While this has happened before, it has never happened in the height of the northern hemisphere summer, when carbon dioxide levels reach a yearly low due to growth of vegetation.

This is a significant milestone, and it is almost certain that no one now living will see levels drop below 400 ppm during their lifetime.  When observations at this site in Hawaii started in the 1950s, the average level of carbon dioxide was 315 ppm.  

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa Hawaii, with clear fluctuation throughout the year
From http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/mlo/programs/coop/scripps/co2/co2.html, public domain
This carbon dioxide is of course the most prevalent greenhouse gas, as well as the main cause of ocean acidification.  There are some benefits to the current level of carbon dioxide (we likely have postponed the next ice age, for one).  However, clearly continued increase in carbon dioxide levels will continue to change climate, raising sea level while also making it harder for many marine organisms to flourish (due to ocean acidification).  We have reached a point where we need to stop increasing carbon in the atmosphere.

For reference, carbon dioxide hasn't been this high in the atmosphere at any time during Homo sapiens tenure on this planet.  
Carbon Dioxide levels are higher now than at any time in the last 800,000 years, at least.
Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


Almost all proposed "solutions" to this problem have really been efforts to just decrease how much carbon dioxide we are emitting, rather than removing any carbon dioxide.  This is futile, as almost all human productive activity produces carbon dioxide (even making steel for wind turbines and mining lithium for batteries).  Also, as more of the world electrifies, energy consumption and therefore carbon dioxide emissions will continue to increase from the developing world.  You can hardly blame the people of India and Africa for wanting a standard of living we enjoyed 60 or 70 years ago in the U.S.  This standard of living, currently, is only made possible by fossil fuels.

So, what is to be done?  We cannot stop using fossil fuels, so are we just stuck with the consequences of our emissions?  The answer is a resounding no.  Fossil fuels, specifically coal, are the compressed and aged products of ancient forests of massive trees, buried before organisms evolved that could readily dissolve lignin in wood. If we could replant reasonable numbers of massive trees, we could begin counteracting this emission of carbon dioxide.  We have calculated that some single trees (for example, the General Grant Sequoia in California) have stored more than a lifetime's emissions of carbon dioxide.  Even if we didn't plant massive trees, planting large numbers of smaller trees on currently dry, barren land would make the land productive and carbon sequestering.  

How is this to be done?  Planting sequoias outside their current range and planting trees in dry, barren areas has been made entirely possible by new technology, called the Groasis Waterboxx.

A schematic cutaway view of the Groasis Waterboxx (from Groasis.com).  Water is collected on the tan lid, funneled through the siphons shown in red to the green reservoir, and slowly released to the roots of the growing tree via the white wick.

The Groasis Waterboxx acts as a self refilling water battery for trees.  It collects condensation and rain water, stores it, and slowly releases it to the roots of a growing tree sapling. The method in which the water is released forms a water column beneath the Waterboxx, inducing the tree to grow deep roots that withstand future periods of drought.  You can see Waterboxx results below.  

Thirteen months' growth of a white teak tree in the desert of Ecuador - truly incredible growth without watering and with the Waterboxx

Three years' growth of a salt cedar (invasive in the U.S.) tree with the Groasis Waterboxx in the Sahara Desert!  These trees had over 88% survival with no watering after planting when the Waterboxx was used.
Image from Groasis.com
Two years' growth of a sequoia from planting with the Waterboxx in central Indiana.  No water was given to this tree after planting with the Waterboxx, even after Waterboxx removal.  The sequoia grew surprisingly well, and could easily be planted throughout the eastern U.S. with the Waterboxx.  

If you live in a part of the U.S. with near average or above average rain (25 or more inches), have you considered planting a sequoia or other large tree on your property?  If you live in an arid part of the country, have you considered enriching your land, providing shade and sequestering carbon dioxide by planting desert-adapted trees.  This is now possible with the Waterboxx.  What is more, trees planted with the Waterboxx can be affordable, bare root trees, enabling large numbers to be planted.  The Waterboxx itself is reusable for up to 10 years.     

Wouldn't it be rewarding to leave your land better than you found it, while taking action on the biggest environmental issue of human history?  

You can find out more about the Waterboxx here at DewHarvest.com

We would love to read your comments below.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sequoia Progress in Indiana with the Groasis Waterboxx




We have always been interested in big trees, and have planted several (4) Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) outside where we live in Indiana, only to see all of them die.  When we started Dew Harvest® LLC, we decided to use one Groasis Waterboxx to plant a Giant Sequoia, hoping that the Waterboxx would overcome the dry Indiana summers that killed my previous 4 trees.  The Sequoia is very water loving, and does not tolerate long periods of drought.  Below you see pictures of both the Sequoia immediately after planting in mid May and progress since then 6 weeks later (for reference, the lid of the Waterboxx is 20 inches in diameter).

The Sequoia seen laterally at initial planting (again approximately 2 years old).  Some brown is evident from winter die back.

Sequoia after 6 weeks growth with the Waterboxx (almost doubled in size) while the grass around the Sequoia has died back from lack of rain.  No water was added to the Waterboxx except that added by dew and rain naturally.  Note: Orientation of photo is flipped 180 degrees as evidenced by blue cap in Waterboxx lid position.  The lighter blue green color is indicative of new growth.

The Sequoia after 6 weeks with the Waterboxx (approximately doubled in size in 6 weeks, after 2  years of slow growth).  Again, the  grass around the Groasis Waterboxx is dying back from lack of consistent rainfall.  Again, the lighter blue green is new growth, and no brown is evident.
The Sequoia after approximately 2 months, continues growing in height as well as width.  The large amount of light green indicates the rate at which the tree is growing.  The box will be left on over winter, as it provides a blanket of water which will only slowly change temperatures and protect the base of the Sequoia from drying out.  The design of the Waterboxx means that it will not break when the water in it freezes, but may loosen the lid (the ice will expand upward, not outward).



Sequoia after approximately 2 months of growth with the Waterboxx and no external watering (no water has been added to the box except dew and rain, which have kept the box completely full).  You can see that the surrounding grass continues to die back from lack of water, but the irrigating and cooling effects of the Waterboxx keep the sequoia growing without any browning.  This tree will soon be able to grow on its own, but we will leave the Waterboxx on it over winter to prevent the drying winter winds from killing the young tree.


The water level is only down approximately 1 cm (in a ~25 cm high basin) after one whole month with less than 1 inch of rainfall.  The morning dew is funneled into the basin, and this prevents the basin from emptying even though it continues to water the healthy growing tree (Photo from August 28,2013)



The Sequioa 3 months after initial planting with the Waterboxx.  The tree remains green even though the surrounding grass has died from lack of rainfall.  

Besides a very dry summer, we had the harshest winter in living memory.  Just as the Waterboxx provides consistent sustaining water in the summer drought, its basin protects the trunk of the tree from drying winds.  The image below shows the Waterboxx on January 10, 2014, during the Polar Vortex (with temps down to -13 degrees Fahrenheit).  




As you can see, the Waterboxx is wonderfully effective at growing water loving trees (or trees in dry areas) even if there is not enough water to sustain such plants as grass.  The Waterboxx accomplishes this by storing dew, collected almost every night, in its basin and slowly releasing it through a wick into the soil below.  The basin serves as a type of plastic mulch, preventing evaporation of the water during the day.  The Waterboxx will need to be removed before the Sequoia is too large to fit through the central opening, which will likely be next spring.  The Waterboxx can stay around the tree overwinter, and will not break if the water inside it freezes.  In this way, it will also form a blanket for the Sequoia, which is susceptible to drying winds (most experts advise burying the Sequoia in straw in the winter). 


The images above show the health, size, and continuing growth of the Sequoia in the late spring, approximately one month following removal of the Waterboxx.  The Sequoia generally browns out in early spring (see brown above) only to add significant new growth later that same season.  The Sequoia is now ~2 feet tall (23 inches) and about 20 inches wide in this photo.




This photo was taken on July 18, 2014, 3 months after Waterboxx removal.  This Sequoia has not had any irrigation or artificial watering of any type (it did have a pan around it, not shown in this picture, to funnel water to the base).  It is now almost 30 inches wide and about as tall.  It clearly will survive now due to the deep Waterboxx induced roots.  




The Sequoia is seen above on October 4, 2014.  Here you can see it is over one yard tall now (about 38 inches in total height.  It has continued to have new growth throughout the late summer. 

The tree, of course, continued to grow, all without any manual watering.  Below, we show it in September, 2016.   The browning of the lower limbs is normal - lower limbs die off as they receive less sunlight.  This tree has less sunlight than most as it has a fence immediately to its south.



Growing up in Indiana (where the tallest tree is rarely 100 feet tall), we became intrigued with the idea of Sequoias that can grow 300 feet tall and live for thousands of years.  We were disappointed with our consistent failure to establish one of these trees - until we tried the Waterboxx.  We now hope to be able to establish small woods with Sequoias, sequestering carbon and adding incredible beauty to our Hoosier landscape.  

Be the first in your area to start growing trees (including perhaps Sequoias) with the Groasis Waterboxx. As always, you can learn more about the Groasis Waterboxx and buy one (or several) at Dew Harvest® LLC.  

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here. We buy our Sequoias from our friend Joe Welker at Giant-Sequoia.com.  We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".