At first glance, the Amazonian rainforests and the Sahara desert don’t seem to have much in common. While the first is full of luxuriant biodiversity, the latter is nothing but dry, scorched earth and sand. Lots of sand.
However, according to a recent study, the Sahara desert plays a crucial role in keeping the Amazonian fauna and flora healthy and flourishing.
What keeps the Amazon rainforests thriving are millions of tons of dust that are carried by the wind from the Atlantic Ocean settle on the Amazon forest soil. Scientists say that this dust is rich in nutrients like phosphorous and has incredible fertilizing properties.
After rigorous studies, the researchers reveal that approximately 22,000 tons of phosphorous-rich dust are blown from the Atlantic Ocean. This is a very good thing because Amazon loses a great amount of phosphorus annually due to excessive raining and floods.
The researchers explain the fact that the Sahara dust is helping the Amazon soil is just one fraction of what they are trying to figure out. According to them, the study is also trying to determine how dust is affecting the climate both locally and globally.
Hongbin Yu, one of the main researchers involved in the study, explained that dust is very important for our planet’s ecosystem, since it’s an essential part of it. Yu adds that dust can affect the climate and the effects of the climate change can affect dust.
From 2007 until 2013, the researchers have been observing how dust travels from the Saharan desert to across the Atlantic and arriving to South America, moving beyond to the Caribbean Sea.
In order to study the journey of the dust, the experts used NASA’s CALIPSO satellite. According to them, this is the largest transport of dust in the world.
The researchers used samples of dust from the Bodele Depression, which is a lake bed that is filled with dead microorganisms that are rich in nutrients and phosphorus.
Also, dust samples have been collected from Miami and Barbados, in order to determine how much phosphorus is travelling to the Amazon basin.
The results showed that only 0.8% of the 27.7 million tons of dust is made of phosphorus, which is how much ends up in the Amazon regions annually.
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