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2014-06-10. Enter halophytes.

posted Jun 16, 2014, 10:10 AM by Alan Gould
For GSS Population Growth chapter 8.  Excerpt: ...Salt kills most plants. ...More than 97 per cent of the water on Earth is saline. ...Of the 400,000 flowering plant species around the world, 2,600 do drink seawater. They are halophytes, meaning ‘salt-plant’, and they might just be the answer to a question surprisingly few governments have yet asked: namely, how can we put our planet’s practically infinite volumes of saltwater to good use? ...between sea-level rise and the increase in droughts and floods, the acreage available for conventional, freshwater agriculture is shrinking rapidly. Freshwater aquifers are becoming increasingly salty.... Elsewhere, one-sixth of the world’s population relies on Eurasian rivers that trace back to Himalayan glaciers, which are themselves disappearing because of climate change. ...Meanwhile, we are trying to replace our fossil fuels with bio alternatives. ...The only catch is, they come from plants that also have to be grown and cultivated. With limited arable land and increasingly limited freshwater supplies....  Air travel, in fact, might just be the factor that forces the issue. In 2015, the world’s airplanes are projected to consume 75 billion gallons of jet fuel, and consumption is expected to keep growing some 3-4 per cent per year through the next two decades. At NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, Bilal Bomani runs the Green Lab, a research and teaching lab that investigates both halophyte- and algae-based biofuels in aviation. He guesses that actual shortages will drive the industry to look to new resources. ‘We do not have fuel that will sustain us for the next 50 years,’ Bomani says. ‘You’re either going to do it now, or you’re going to be forced to do it later. ...as a key that unlocks agriculture across four-tenth’s of the world’s land mass, they clearly deserve our close attention.... By Mark Anderson, Aeon Magazine. http://aeon.co/magazine/nature-and-cosmos/are-halophytes-the-crop-of-the-future/