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  • Aspire Zone – Qatar’s green aspiration

     

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    The weather in Qatar, the peninsular jutting out into the Persian Gulf, rarely drops below 15 degrees Celsius in the winter and can exceed 40 degrees Celsius in the sweltering summer. The native flora is sparse but well adjusted to surviving such extreme temperatures, but when Doha’s 2.5 square kilometre sporting complex, Aspire Zone, transplanted scores of foreign trees, special steps were taken to ensure their survival.

    Qatar doesn’t naturally have many trees, being mostly an urban or desert environment, so the 80 species in Aspire Park and 30 species in Aspire Zone mostly came from abroad and were completely new to Qatar’s climate. Aspire Logistics, one of several business departments within Aspire Zone, took charge of the tree’s health.

    The department recognised that the key to establishing these transplanted trees was good root growth. Transplanted trees often lose a large amount of their root ball, and to survive in such heat the young trees would need to be well rooted into the ground. But the application of willow mulch and airspading wasn’t enough to stop the trees from dying in the summer. The department set itself the goal of getting the trees’ root balls back to their pre-transplant size and strength, and had an idea of how to do it.

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    Aspire Logistics was familiar with mycorrhizal fungi, beneficial soil micro-organisms that surround root zones and out-compete soil borne diseases. This beneficial symbiosis allows the tree roots to grow unimpeded by disease and naturally promotes tree vitality and vigour, but the department struggled to source locally a quality product that made use of the fungi. Looking abroad, the department discovered British based Carbon Gold and soon an international deal was struck to save the trees using enriched biochar.

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    Biochar is a type of charcoal made from woody waste, cooked at a low temperature over a long period of time with minimal oxygen. This process leaves it high in carbon, and gives it a sponge like structure. When applied to the soil it improves water holding capacity, increases nutrient delivery to plant roots and provides a permanent infrastructure for the colonisation of beneficial soil micro-organisms, including mycorrhizal fungi.

    To accelerate the delivery of these benefits, Carbon Gold’s biochar is readily enriched with mycorrhizal fungi to colonise the porous material along with seaweed and wormcasts to provide nutrients and trace minerals.

    Before Aspire Logistics had discovered Carbon Gold, the trees were going into shock during the summer months, but since May 2014, Aspire Logistics has been applying Carbon Gold’s enriched biochar to its transplanted trees three times a year and the results are impressive.

    “We’re using Carbon Gold’s enriched biochar products to apply mycorrhizal fungi to our transplanted trees, we’d had some trouble finding a quality product for mycorrhizal application, but Carbon Gold fits the bill.

    “We’ve been using enriched biochar three times a year since May 2014 and we’re already seeing some incredible results. Having quality products like this is vital to our trees’ survival because of the climate here, and enriched biochar has gone a long way to mitigate the shock of transplanting the foreign trees to this environment.”

    Adrian Black, Section Head-Landscaper, Aspire Logistics

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    Since the treatment began, the transplanted trees have become much better at handling the stress of summer. In the Aspire Zone’s urban areas, the loss of trees due to temperature shock has decreased significantly, and the tree loss in Aspire Park has reduced completely with zero trees dying due to temperature shock.
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