Intimate link between the Amazon and the Sahara.

The Amazon rainforest and the Sahara desert seem utterly different.
Yet satellites have discovered a surprising connection that intimately links the two contrasting parts of our world.
The Amazon Rain forest is known as “The lung of the earth.” However one more step is required to release an excess of oxygen by Phytoplankton, microscopic plant organisms, that can multiply in their billions.

2 million tons of sediment from the forest is released into the the amazon river every 24 hours and flows to the Amazon Delta where plankton absorbs the sediment.
The plankton population explodes, the plume releases a pulse of oxygen so large it can be seen from space.

(Photo Image: SeaWiFS Project and GeoEye, Scientific Visualization Studio,Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA).

Half of all oxygen in the atmosphere comes from plankton plumes. Phytoplankton, are the real lungs of the earth. They maintain the precious balance of the air. This enables the next link in the chain of life.
The blue ocean turns green and one of the largest feeding frenzies on earth is triggered. Plankton is the the base of the food chain, the building blocks of life. The plankton that isn’t consumed, sink to the bottom of the ocean, where their corpses lie for millions of years.

It’s May ,the dry season in the Sahara and we’re now in the ancient inland sea, The Bodélé Depression, which is made from these ancient corpses of plankton. The ancient sand is rich in iron and phosphorous, minerals needed by all known living organisms.

These grains of sand will start a 5000 mile voyage to the Amazon, to start the process of rebirth. Dust clouds, 100 stories high, rise at noon each day. The ancient plankton, about 50000 tons a day, is blown across Africa and forms a river of dust high above us in the atmosphere. This hidden river became visible to humans through the satellite TERRA.

image : Getty

The clouds of mineral dust dissolve into water droplets during the Amazon rain season, and starts the regeneration of life, by feeding the rich biological diversity of the Amazon.

The Amazon is one of the oldest systems on earth, 55 million years old.
The bio diversity of the Amazon rainforest, is so abundant, that half of all life on earth, calls it home.
Through photosynthesis, the leaves of trees in the Amazon rainforest release 1/5 of earths oxygen each day.

Half of all oxygen in the atmosphere comes from plankton plumes, while the leaves of trees in the Amazon rainforest release 1/5 of earths oxygen each day.


The true lungs of the earth, is the plankton and its connection to both the Amazon and the Sahara Desert.

Watch the following 13 min video for more information.

Phytoplankton: the Sahara & the Amazon

Author— Heidi M, article originally written for The African Migrant Publication

Print publication, Vic, Aus

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