March 31, 2017
Researchers believe California’s giant sequoia trees survive, in part, as a result of dust blown in from Asia. The fine particular matter plays a key role in replenishing soil nutrients in the Sierra Nevada region.
The mountainous region’s bedrock doesn’t offer a wealth of nutrients, especially phosphorous, thus the soil produced naturally doesn’t support flora. Researchers wondered how could small pockets of trees thrive in some granite areas, while no vegetation existed in others. They discovered dust pools provided a vital source of nutrients.
To find out where those trees were getting their food, researchers developed a low-tech passive dust-collection system, using suspended marbles in a Bundt pan. Data showed that as much as 45% of the dust arrived from Asia, much of it from the Gobi Desert, a phosphorous-rich source.
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