Phosphorus is important for forest growth.
Bratislava. The world's largest tropical rainforest earns a very important nutrient for its growth from a surprising source.
Much of the phosphorus that acts as fertilizer in the Amazon comes from smoke from fires in Africa. It's in the air across the Atlantic, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists arrived at an unexpected result by analyzing particles trapped in air filters on a mountain in French Guiana. They wanted to determine how much phosphorus transmitted by Africa is affecting the growth of the Amazon rainforest.
So far, it has been suggested that phosphorus reaches the Amazon in the Sahara dust, which is carried by winds across the Atlantic.
They combined the results with satellite measurements that showed smoke travel from Africa.
The smoke came from natural fires, wood burning in deforestation or industrial combustion.
Scientists have noticed in the data that large amounts of phosphorus in the filters are sitting just as the smoke has run out on the South American coast.
"Our findings show that biomass burning in Africa is a potentially more important source of phosphorus dust in the Amazon ecosystem than dust," said University of Miami Principal Investigator Cassandra Gaston in a press release.
Most phosphorus reaches the Amazon in the spring, when the airflow is strongest, at least in the fall.
Phosphorus has the potential to reach the tropical Atlantic, as well as the Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica. In both, it can stimulate the growth of plankton by marine plants such as algae and cyanobacteria that feed many animals.
Doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1906091116