Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Saharan Dust Fertilizes the Amazon

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Saharan Dust Fertilizes the Amazon

Article excerpt

The Sahara and the Amazon rain forest seem to inhabit separate worlds. The former is a vast expanse of sand and scrub stretching across the northern third of Africa, while the latter is a dense green mass of humid jungle covering northeast South America. And yet, they are connected: Every year, millions of tons of nutrient-rich Saharan dust cross the Atlantic Ocean, bringing vital phosphorus and other fertilizers to depleted Amazon soils.

For the first time, scientists have accurately estimated how much phosphorus makes this trans-Atlantic journey. An article in the journal Geophysical Research Letters puts the number at about 22,000 tons per year, which roughly matches the amount that the Amazon loses from rain and flooding.

This phosphorus accounts for just 0.08% of the 27.7 million tons of Saharan dust that settles in the Amazon every year. The finding is part of a bigger research effort to understand the role of dust in the environment and its effects on local and global climate. …

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