While the Amazon Rainforest and the Sahara Desert represent two vastly different environments separated by the Atlantic Ocean, Saharan dust is found in great quantities in the Amazon, replenishing its soils with much-needed phosphorus lost from heavy rainfall.
In a recently published study in Geophysical Research Letters, lead author Dr. Hongbin Yu, an associate research scientist at ESSIC, estimated that approximately 22,000 tons of phosphorus reach the rainforest per year, nearly matching the total amount the region loses annually.
To arrive at this estimate, Yu and his team of researchers analyzed seven years of dust transport estimates from the Bodélé Depression region of Chad using data collected by NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite between 2007 and 2013.
The team discovered that years of high rainfall in the Sahel–a long strip of land on the southern border of the Sahara– were followed by years of low dust transport, perhaps identifying a relationship between rainfall and the wind circulation that sweeps dust across the Atlantic.
“This is a small world, and we’re all connected together,” Yu said, in an article on the CMNS website reporting the study’s release.