With the European Commission and the Gran Canaria local government as major funding partners, the LIFE Nieblas project is using fog collectors as a main source of irrigation water for reforested areas, informs The Guardian.
The project is testing fog collectors, made of upright sheets of plastic mesh that collect water droplets as the wind blows fog through them in two sites: Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands, and in Portugal (Vouzela and Carregal do Sal). Both are under desertification risk and require significant water contributions for reforestation.
Vicenç Carabassa, the lead scientist, from the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (Creaf), a research institute at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, said fog collection is particularly applicable in restoring the Canary Islands’ laurisilva forests – a type of subtropical rainforest – which themselves exist by collecting fog water.
Fog collectors work well as long as there is both fog and wind, both present in the Canaries and in Portugal, but not so much in the Mediterranean, where fires and desertification are increasing threats. “We’re still trying to discover what are the optimal conditions for fog collectors to work,” explained Carabassa. Resotring the laurisilva forest would help replenish the Canaries’ aquifers.
The project will also test the “cocoon”, a self-sustained and biodegradable system to irrigate seedlings developed by another project, the LIFE Green Link project. It is a container made of recycled carboard surrounding the seedling which can hold 25 litres of water, and helps it grow during its first, most critical year. It is initially filled manually with water and after receives water from rain, but in this project, it will receive water from fog collectors. The system has been found to increase the rate of seedling survival from 40% to close to 60%, compared with those planted with conventional methods.