Scientists credit African dust with fertilizing the Hawaii rain forests — giving new insight into how remote forests sprout and grow on what was once volcanic rock.

Oliver Chadwick from the University of California, Santa Barbara, said they were able to track the African dust to the rain forest floor.

“Hawaii is one of the least dusty places in the world. It’s one of the most remote archipelagos in the world and receives very little dust. And yet, we’ve been able to demonstrate that the phosphorus that’s carried by the dust and deposited on the old landscapes in Kauai actually fertilizes the forest.”

Chadwick told Scientific American that “Through the atmosphere, all parts of terrestrial ecosystems, forests, grasslands, are linked in a very effective way.”

They are linked, at least for now.

This brings up another factor of global climate change that is little understood, namely how ecosystems will change beyond weather and climate. If the global climate changes by a few degrees, the jet streams that carry this dust to Hawaii could land elsewhere. Hawaiian rainforests might not outright wither and die, but they could change drastically. New growth that depends on fertilization might slow and the forests could thin dramatically.

Without this bit of dust, people will be forced to fertilize entire forest on their own or watch a rain forest become a normal forest devoid of the oxygen-creating environment.

So losing this bit of dust in the wind could further exacerbate climate change.

[Via Scientific American]

Nick Upton

I write words.

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