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Dust Storms In Sahara Desert Sustain Life In Atlantic Ocean

July 21, 2008
clipped from www.sciencedaily.com

Research at the University of Liverpool has found how Saharan dust storms help sustain life over extensive regions of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Working aboard research vessels in the Atlantic, scientists mapped the distribution of nutrients including phosphorous and nitrogen and investigated how organisms such as phytoplankton are sustained in areas with low nutrient levels.

They found that plants are able to grow in these regions because they are able to take advantage of iron minerals in Saharan dust storms. This allows them to use organic or ‘recycled’ material from dead or decaying plants when nutrients such as phosphorous – an essential component of DNA – in the ocean are low.

“These findings are important because plant life cycles are essential in maintaining the balance of gases in our atmosphere. In looking at how plants survive in this area, we have shown how the Atlantic is able to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the growth of photosynthesising plants.”

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