A new study has found that the Amazonian rainforest depends on the Sahara desert for nutrients and basic fertilization. The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Even though the Sahara desert and the Amazonian rainforest are separated by around 3,000 miles, including a vast distance of water which is the Atlantic Ocean, a new study has found that over 27 million tons of dust is transported from the Sahara desert across the Atlantic and deposited into the Amazon basin. The dust brings fertilizers and nutrients, such as phosphorus, to the largest tropical rainforest in the world.
A team of scientists managed for the first time to correctly assess the amount of dust that travels from the Sahara to the Amazon. The data was collected between 2007 and 2013 using the satellite Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) and NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar. Hongbin Yu, lead author of the study and scientist at the University of Maryland, was joined by other researchers to find that each year around 182 million tons of dust leaves the Sahara desert and over 27 million tons of it gets deposited into the Amazon basin to become nutrients and fertilization for the Amazonian rainforest.
The dust, which is rich in phosphorus and has large deposits of dead microorganism, acts like a fertilizer and scientists have established that the Amazonian rainforest depends on the Sahara desert, a notion that was until now absurd.
Yu revealed in a statement released by NASA that phosphorus is very limited in the tropical region and that weirdly, the amount of phosphorus lost due floods and surface run-off in the Amazonian rainforest is exactly the amount of phosphorous brought in from the Sahara desert.
According to the study, the amount of dust that arrives in the Amazon basin varies from year to year. It is believed that the difference is the result of rainfall variation in a region called Sahel on the southern border of the Sahara desert. When the region was dry, the dust transport to the Amazon basin increased and when the Sahel region was wet, then the dust transport would decrease.
Hongbin Yu concluded that humans are living in a small world and that we are all connected together.
Image Source: Earth Times