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Can you build a "natural floating island"?
#335725 05/21/13 04:22 PM
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Nathan Offline OP
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Hey folks,
I've been reading a number of threads on people building floating islands out of a number of artificial materials..
Has anybody experimented or successfully built a floating island without artificial flotation?
Larry(adirondack pond) mentioned a natural island on his pond but I think it was naturally formed when the pond was built

I had an idea to create one:
  • Build it after summer when water levels are lowest
  • Lay out a hard platform or something like weedblock tarp to separate the island from the soil. (so it can easily separate from ground and float)
  • Pack in the mixture of soil(s), plant roots, or live plants (The mix would be key...). Maybe have different layers. I think trying to mimmick the soil/mix of natural floating islands may be the best approach.
  • Pack the mix 2-4 feet deep, with a 10-15 ft diameter.
  • Perhaps let some plants start growing on it - would this help with the natural flotation?
  • Let sit for several months out of water for soil to harden and plant roots to grab the soil
  • If all successful, the island would rise with the water once the lake fills back up.
Maybe I'm just dreaming here but thought I'd throw it out here to see if its a possibility..
Do you know of any books/textbooks that would be good for understanding how these natural islands work?

Regards,
Nate

Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335741 05/21/13 06:56 PM
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Nate, you're not dreaming at all. It's pretty much a reality. We have a few water bodies here with the floating islands, whether we want them or not. They're comprised of the following, according to the layers I'm using as text:

(Air)
* Grass/creeping weeds/flowers
* Mixed 15% fine sedimentary and top soils (can be woody compost), 3 inches,with root zones reaching down to 6 inches
* Intertwining of coarse sediment, dead/live moss bed, mushrooms, and lateral roots from various plants,roughly 2 inches.
* Mixed of rotted woody materials from tree barks and stringy leaves (aquatic grasses). Same as rotting mulch based materials.
(Water)

So, from your composition design, you're not too far off. These islands by far will not be able to support any size human, but it can indeed support migratory birds that feed on the insects. There are various designs on YouTube, wetland and habitat restoration agencies that you can take a check upon.


Leo

* Knowledge and experience yield wisdom. Sharing wisdom expand the generations with crucial knowledge. Unshared wisdom is worth nothing more than rotting manure.
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335744 05/21/13 07:08 PM
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Nathan, you get this figured out and I would be very interested in replicating!! Awesome idea!!


Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335749 05/21/13 07:28 PM
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Like this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29NoDdB7stI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT9uA_bQePU
* Mosses walk on water theory?

http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/how-to-build-a-floating-trash-island.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LQqjKLwG7I

This should get you started..

Here's something we talked heavily on a solution for providing high flood zones, using similar harvesting and creative innovation for renewable food sources.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWGRX_cH3oM

Last edited by Leo Nguyen; 05/21/13 07:32 PM.

Leo

* Knowledge and experience yield wisdom. Sharing wisdom expand the generations with crucial knowledge. Unshared wisdom is worth nothing more than rotting manure.
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
n8ly #335750 05/21/13 07:29 PM
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Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335759 05/21/13 08:32 PM
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For soil/substrate look into coco coir,it's basically coconut husks in a compressed brick.In something like mimicking a floating island I think it would really work well although I have yet to try it.

Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335765 05/21/13 09:18 PM
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Leo, your description of the layers is just what I was looking for! The BAIRA in Bangladesh video is very interesting, and it looks like they have a layered approach. BAIRA is also mentioned in the link that Instar linked (Excellent article by the way)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWGRX_cH3oM

Originally Posted By: Leo Nguyen
(Air)
* Grass/creeping weeds/flowers
* Mixed 15% fine sedimentary and top soils (can be woody compost), 3 inches,with root zones reaching down to 6 inches
* Intertwining of coarse sediment, dead/live moss bed, mushrooms, and lateral roots from various plants,roughly 2 inches.
* Mixed of rotted woody materials from tree barks and stringy leaves (aquatic grasses). Same as rotting mulch based materials.
Any idea on the depth of the bottom layer?

For this idea, I'd like to avoid all the manufactured approaches, or approaches that use manufactured waste like plastic bottles
The island itself would use natural parts like soil, compost, roots, branches, bark, etc.
Of course, you could use manufactured tools to build it or as part of the launch (Like the tarp/platform I mentioned)

I'd like to hear some more ideas from you all! Maybe we can put together a plan that I can try to implement this fall/winter

Last edited by Nathan; 05/21/13 09:19 PM.

Central OK: 2 Acres w/ LMB, GSF, RES, CC
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335770 05/21/13 10:10 PM
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Nate, the bottom layer is a unique layer. From what I can deduce from the layer, it's a dense dried bundled of vegetated layer from the local aquatic weeds that get drifted onto shore. The dried tall weeds, such as cattails and various other tall fescue, died, dried out, and fell onto of the dried aquatic weeds. Over time between late summer to winter, as the water receded, moss, creeping grass, and various other plants grew over them, intertwining. Over the winter, they all died. Spring comes, process begins, and next you know it, barks, dead plants, and continue pile of various other woody materials get embedded into the layer. Thus, this bottom layer. As the water rises, the bed floated up into under the trees. Water receded again. Leaves, grass, and various other materials get piled onto of that layer, and behold, the second layer. Over the season, the first and second layer get built up.


As Robert mentioned, coconut coir is used widely in construction industries to keep the soil from eroding, and made perfect for water impact barrier, as well as streambed embankment reinforcement to add compost onto, and under, to promote vegetation growth. Beside from coconut coir, you can use blankets of hay, or in this case, straw waddle. Cheap, but also comes with a cost of introducing unwanted grass into your pond.


Leo

* Knowledge and experience yield wisdom. Sharing wisdom expand the generations with crucial knowledge. Unshared wisdom is worth nothing more than rotting manure.
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335798 05/22/13 09:36 AM
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The thought I have is a floating island made of natural materials will probably deteriorate every year and have to be rebuilt so as to keep floating. A much easier and simpler floating island take of my foam rock island would be a 4x8 foot sheet of closed building foam with a foam ridge liquid nail glued around the edges to hold the dirt in. Small 1 inch holes drilled randomly over the panel and packed with moss or even dirt which I believed would siphon water into the growing medium without ropes as I used. It would float year after year without water logging and having to be rebuilt, and the outside edges could be heated with a heat gun or torch to crisps it into a tough skin.


Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
John Monroe #335803 05/22/13 10:41 AM
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Hey John, I realize the downside that it would likely deteriorate year over year and require some work to keep it going. I've been reading your posts on another thread, and I will likely build an artificial island similar to yours or Larry's.

Still, I'd like to gather ideas on taking this approach -- it would be cool if it did work, since it would essentially be no cost, just a bit of labor and experimentation. I have a great area on my pond where I could test


Central OK: 2 Acres w/ LMB, GSF, RES, CC
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335813 05/22/13 11:46 AM
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Foam will deteriorate under UV exposure, creating nuisance a bit later. Why not use something more permanent, like PVC pipe, say, 4", add a float noodle or foam inside to increase buoyancy, and seal the pipe, making a solid frame. Using either biodegradable twines, or rope netting to create a suspended base. Follow it up with hay/dried grass beds, adding a compacted layer of compost. Add seeds of various sort. Ensure to have the seedlings take roots on land, before introducing into water, since you want the roots to attach to various layers before placing into the water to keep things together.

I wish the DFW department allow me to do various experiments on the local waters, but strict regulations prevented me from doing it. They know my craziness too well.


Leo

* Knowledge and experience yield wisdom. Sharing wisdom expand the generations with crucial knowledge. Unshared wisdom is worth nothing more than rotting manure.
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335910 05/23/13 12:26 AM
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I think you are really onto something Nate, and Leo has some really helpful links and suggestions towards your goal. I will be trying to do something similar this summer during an internship. My goal is to produce some smaller squares of "wetland sod" for a stream restoration project. I just want to weigh in with a quick (because that's all I have time for now) comment or two.

I think making it 2-4 feet thick is way bulkier than necessary. Little or no soil is actually necessary unless you need to grow your plants on the "island" before it is floating (and you plan to water it often until it is floating!) You should mostly be concerned with creating a matrix in which the plants can anchor themselves and create a rhizome network throughout.

Speaking of anchoring...some kind of rigid frame, (whether sealed PVC pipe, bamboo, wood, whatever,) would probably need to be incorporated if you plan to tie it off somewhere. It may "anchor" itself by rooting if you leave it near shore when water levels drop.

I found this Baltimore project that used a Floating Islands International system (plastic matrix and foam floats) and also some handmade "Biohabitats" planters. Looking at the slide show linked below, these are only a few inches thick and stuffed with biochar. Substitute the plastic netting with plant fiber (coir, jute...), build maybe a more "natural" wood frame which you could lash together with a similar fiber, and stuff it with materials like Leo mentioned and I bet you'd have some measure of success.

http://www.biohabitats.com/projects/baltimore-healthy-harbor/

Did I say "quick" comment? Oh, well. I hope this helps. I'm intrigued with the subject and will probably have more to add later. I probably should introduce myself on the forum, too...Next time!

Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335918 05/23/13 01:21 AM
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phytomike, great link! And welcome to the crazy forum.

2 to 4 feet is indeed a too dense of a design, increasing ill-buoyanced biomass, which will sink the entire island, unless more floatation methods added, which decimate the idea of the natural floating island perspective. Little soil is required for ionic bonding between plant rooting system and bio-matters to create that unique environment for the plants, also in promoting proper uncompressible gaps for drainage once the root systems are full in play. Without restrictive uncompressible gaps, the roots will be too dense, causing ill drainage, and thus, rotting. This is macrobiological study intermediate course in the bioremediation courses. This is where my green thumbs for using natural approach to enhance my garden, as well as my vermicomposting friends.

Keep your thoughts and opinions voiced. They will bring fresh unique perspectives to the group. Creating the most natural, least costly, and most durable island that can be regenerative is the solution that we all want. Now, finding that approach..well..time to pull out all the inventive and creative minds we can, and mesh them all together.


Leo

* Knowledge and experience yield wisdom. Sharing wisdom expand the generations with crucial knowledge. Unshared wisdom is worth nothing more than rotting manure.
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335919 05/23/13 03:28 AM
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Nate I am not trying to discourage you so go for it. The BAIRA project in Bangladesh is really interesting. I was only trying to point out that natural materials take up water over time and sink, but that is what makes the Baira project work, the natural renewal of nature. As I see it, a third world country like Bangladesh is the cutting edge of the future (who would have guessed) as the world runs pell mell into global heating and over population.

Now, looking at my one acre pond as a possible way of feeding ones family. It is over vegetated and has many bullfrogs, minnows and bluegill, no other predators. For protein the bullfrogs right now could fell my freezer. The bluegills I see are fat from eating the minnow and tadpoles I think and could be part of the continual protein harvesting.

Now for growing the vegetables. Somewhat copying the Baira project, I would cut my ponds vegetation, pile it onto the floating frame work, (in Bangladesh they used bamboo) then use pond bottom muck as the nutrient growing medium which is decomposed plants. In the Baira project they used the rotted vegetation compost from their last years floating island. It would seem this would be a complete recycling system.


Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335920 05/23/13 04:10 AM
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Leo I have had expanding foam deteriorate badly with experiments on my pond from uv along and also with the white expanded open cell foam we call Styrofoam, but I have never noticed that with the blue or pink building closed cell foam. To test this further, two years ago I put a one foot square piece of blue board in the pond and left it for a year and there was no uv damage or water logging that I could detect. The floating island has been in the water now for a year and except for the turtle damage from them clawing their way on and off the island I see no damage. The exposed foam rocks are painted to resemble rocks and the paint insures that there won’t be uv damage. I use varnish with uv protection on my kayaks to insure the clear fiberglass on the wood won’t be uv damaged.
I did a water test on the Dow Blue Board about 10 years ago by weighing a ¾”x1’x1’piece on a gram scales, then submerged it underwater for 7 days and weighed it again. It picked up it’s weight in water, which was like adding a feather to it. I let it set for seven days and it lost any water it had absorbed. This piece of blue board had some utility knife cuts in it that I could tell did have water trapped in them because of the coloration. So it may be that this polystyrene’s absorption was nothing at all. The word STYROFOAM on the blue board foam is a trademark but the material is really polystyrene. This foam is inexpensive and comes in thickness up to 2 1/2 inches that I have seen in the lumberyards and perhaps more. Since it will not absorb any water worth mentioning I am planning on using it as a fitted flotation in the bow and stern of my new kayak.
===================================================================

Dow STYROFOAM
Since its introduction in 1948, STYROFOAM Brand insulation, the Blue extruded polystyrene foam, has been a proven performer in millions of installation's worldwide. STYROFOAM brand insulation is made to offer reliable performance over the long term. It's unique closed-cell structure leaves no voids between the cells. The result: high compressive strength and unparalleled resistance to water penetration. Because it stands up to time, you can reuse STYROFOAM brand insulation in may applications, adding exceptional value to your project by saving both future replacement and disposal costs.
Invented by Dow more than 50 years ago and identified worldwide by the distinctive Blue** color, STYROFOAM* products are the most widely recognized brand in insulation today. In the early 1900s, The Dow Chemical Company invented a process for extruding polystyrene to achieve a closed cell foam that resists moisture. Recognizing its superior insulating properties, buoyancy and "unsinkability," it was originally adopted in 1942 by the Coast Guard for use in a six-man life raft. That was the start of many other wartime applications by the Coast Guard and Navy.

STYROFOAM rigid foam insulation also helps protect your home from the damaging effects of moisture. In the early 1900s, The Dow Chemical Company invented a process for extruding polystyrene to achieve a closed cell foam that resists moisture. Recognizing its superior insulating properties, buoyancy and "unsinkability," it was originally adopted in 1942 by the Coast Guard for use in a six-man life raft. That was the start of many other wartime applications by the Coast Guard and Navy. Today, those same properties have found a home in your home – as insulating sheathing that resists moisture and reduces the potential for condensation in your wall where it can reduce the R-value of cavity insulation, contribute to the growth of mold and mildew, and can result in poor indoor air quality.


Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335926 05/23/13 08:05 AM
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The Dow blue board is also available in billets 8" thick, 2ft wide and 8ft long.


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Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335952 05/23/13 10:01 AM
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I stumbled on this list of wood densities
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/wood-density-d_40.html

It may help to identify which local trees to use while creating a mesh. Lower density would be better for flotation (Pine, basswood, spruce, willow, balsa). Thin branches could be mixed in with the grass/compost and left to dry out. Like Leo and phytomike said, plants would then need to grow their rhizome networks throughout the mesh.


Central OK: 2 Acres w/ LMB, GSF, RES, CC
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #335983 05/23/13 11:53 AM
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John, please keep us informed of the integrity of the material's durability. As you indicated, natural inhabitants tend to damage the island, so, the island should mimic the natural biota as much as possible to prevent pollutant intrusion, such as styrofoam. Consumption of manmade materials that don't take on the natural properties simply create a degrating food chain structure.

Living in a highly urbanized areas, and as a scientist, I learn to cultivate in every way to feed my family utilizing whatever resource that can be renewed, on the small amount of land I have. This is how we teach ourselves and our future generations to balance man-to-nature cohabitation so we won't decimate what we have as remaining precious resources. Pond owners have such great potential to yield such great renewable resources at their disposal. If we have that many frrogs around our areas, we would be having quite a bit of delicious meal with great source of protein supplement. I would be eating plenty of pigeons around here, since we are infested with them, but what they forage from the city's as food sources, I dare not consume them.


Leo

* Knowledge and experience yield wisdom. Sharing wisdom expand the generations with crucial knowledge. Unshared wisdom is worth nothing more than rotting manure.
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #336091 05/24/13 04:45 AM
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Leo I will give a report every so often on how the island is holding up. Outside of the turtle damage I can see nothing that has changed from last spring until now. It shows no signs of water logging. If I repair the turtle damaged foam with a torch and paint I will take pictures of it while it is in the water. I don’t think this would take any time at all to do. Since the petunias grew well on the island I can’t see why vegetables like lettuce, cabbages and fruits like strawberries wouldn’t do well also. I may try some veggies to see if there are any problems. With my high population of frogs it might be that the veggie would be almost bug free. Also on my small farm we grow corn and soybeans and the thought struck be would my bluegills eat the high protein soybeans?


Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #336137 05/24/13 12:02 PM
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Very nice cyclic layout you got there as a renewable design. I'm totally jealous. Just make sure the damage caused by the turtle doesn't create an introduced consumption product for the creatures. We may not know it, but the food chain consuming the materials do.

If you have a large amount of fresh corn and soy bean, yes, try to alternate the dietary supplement. Rather than integrating dried and refined products, if the bluegills care to consume the fresh veggies, encourage them. But never exceed more than 50% of the total volume of their dietary consumption. There will be. A demishing return of growth and vitality.


Leo

* Knowledge and experience yield wisdom. Sharing wisdom expand the generations with crucial knowledge. Unshared wisdom is worth nothing more than rotting manure.
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #411110 05/13/15 07:00 AM
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Any updates?


Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #411128 05/13/15 08:35 AM
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I 2nd the request for an update on this string...John Monroe, how is the closed cell foam holding up? Anyone manage to pull off a natural floating island?

I'd love to build a few of these to help with nutrient load absorption.


Dale



"When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water." - anonymous
Re: Can you build a "natural floating island"?
Nathan #515357 12/31/19 11:26 PM
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Reading this again, reminds me that i bought all the materials to build one severals years ago; but haven't taken time to actually build it. Another project on my list for 2020.

Also, any updates to your island projects?



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