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A lava field to be reclaimed for forestry is under threat from human habitation
Twelve cacti and an orange tree were selected from a field that had become a lava field in the Andes mountain range of Patagonia.
As part of an experiment in restoring the forest, the cacti, which would otherwise have died from the spread of deforestation, were planted in two large plots across 20 hectares (49 acres).
Their roots will slowly be drawn into the soil as they are brought to the surface in spring, ready to re-establish themselves before the end of the year.
“The first two plants – stalks five and eight in length – have formed the base of the grove, which will grow later to their largest branches and continue to feed on its other inhabitants,” the study said.
But the researchers warned that over the years, sections of the grove could split off from the main plants, potentially cutting off access to new cacti.
They did not know whether the cacti would be able to survive on their own, but said they hoped the community would remove they once the new species has reached maturity.
The team, which included entomologists and a forester, used trained potted cacti plants to simulate the effect of the once ubiquitous relative of today’s rock weeds.
The government of Argentina has protected the forest since 1985 and earmarked it for forest reclamation using such techniques.
Ninety-eight per cent of the area in the conservancy has been reforested and the authorities plan to make at least another third part of the area lush again.