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Sahara Sand Fertilizes Amazon Rainforest

According to a new, multi-year study by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the Sahara sand fertilizes the Amazon rainforest. Their research reveals the unprecedented relationship between certain specific regions of the Earth.



The findings are the end result of data collected by NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation satellite, called CALIPSO.  NASA originally launched the satellite in 2006 to observe the vertical cloud-like sand swarms and airborne particles that surround the Earth.

A group of NASA scientists utilize numerous light pulses from the NASA satellite Calipso to measure the transatlantic dust cloud that carries phosphorous dust from Africa to South America annually. They measured it in three dimensions.

The investigative team learned that wind carries approximately 182 million tons of Saharan dust out to sea every year. The cloud loses almost 50 million on the way to South America. What remains, however, reportedly fans out across the Caribbean Sea and the Amazonian basin. It dusts the ground with roughly 22,000 tons of phosphorus.

Phosphorous is a key nutrient included in commercial grade fertilizer. It promotes plant growth. Prior studies have demonstrated that up to 90 percent of the Amazon rainforest soil is missing this essential nutrient.


Sahara sand/Image: Twitter

The sand from the Sahara Desert, however, is actually rich in phosphorous. The dust particles are no larger than one tenth of the width of a human hair. In aggregate, however, they form into large plumes that can actually be seen from outer space.

Scientists have completed calculations and they currently believe that the Amazon basin receives nearly 22,000 tons of phosphorous from the Sahara desert every year. That is also roughly the same amount that gets washed out every year due to heavy rains and run-off water.

Study author Hongbin Yu stated: “This is a small world and we’re all connected together.”

Sahara Sand Fertilizes Amazon Rainforest

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.