Sahara dust feeds Amazon rain forest

February 26, 2015 5:25 PM |


A NASA study has revealed that dust from the hot Saharan Desert of North Africa may have a connection to a totally different climate in South America.

The study has concluded that the dust acts as a fertilizer for South America's Amazon rainforest nearly 1,600 miles to the west over the Atlantic Ocean. Factually speaking, this dust provides the much needed phosphorous to the soils of the Amazon. Using satellite data, the study emphasizes that nutrients such as phosphorous are not in abundance in the Amazon as rainfall washes it down from the forest floor to nearby streams or rivers.

Approximately 22,000 tons of phosphorous reach the Amazon every year from the Saharan dust, which this is equivalent to the amount of phosphorous lost due to rainfall runoff in the Amazon. The plumes of dust can sometimes be seen on satellite images when they first emanate from Africa. Then these dust particles are transported westwards into parts of the Caribbean Islands, northern parts of South America and even Florida. Surges of dry air often accompany the dust to the western Atlantic Ocean.

The Saharan dust contain so much phosphorous because it comes from lake beds of northern Africa, specially in Chad which has very high content of phosphorous.

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