Source : Flickr/Bob Dass
A new study published on Nature Communications has indicated that understanding the role of dust in developing and maintaining ecological balance can be increasingly important in the face of crisis related to climate change.
Scientists have known for a long time that dust plays an important role as a source of nutrients for highly weathered and old landscapes. In the publication, UC Merced Professor Stephen Hart and his collaborators wrote that the dusts have a bigger role in old landscapes where depletion of resources required for sustaining life have expedited due to climate changes. He said,
“Dust provides important inputs of the plant-growth limiting nutrient phosphorus to western Sierra Nevada ecosystems. These dust inputs may be critical for maintaining plant productivity in these geologically young montane environments, and dust inputs may increase as land use in the Central Valley intensifies and as the climate warms in the future.”
“I think we’ll also be able to use the microbial DNA to pinpoint where the dust comes from with a similar or higher fidelity than using radiogenic isotopes in the dust.”
Graduate student Nicholas Dove have shed light on the research by commenting on the process by saying, “Harvesting dust for scientific purposes is surprisingly rudimentary. We use many household supplies: Wooden posts hold up bundt pans filled with marbles, and the dust settles in the marble matrix. We collect this dust by ‘washing’ the marbles with sterile water. The water is filtered and, voila, you have your dust.”
UC Merced Professor Roger Bales who led SSCZO, which is part of 10 critical zone observatories established by the National Science Foundation commented,
“The CZO network was set up to carry out research such as this, which integrates physical, geochemical and biological measurements from the subsurface through the land surface, giving us an unprecedented predictive ability to improve management of these rapidly changing forested landscapes,” Bales said.
“This research reveals that the transport of dust in the atmosphere is important for the ecological health of many parts of our planet,” said Richard Yuretich, program director for the NSF’s Critical Zone Observatory Network. “Complex cycles and feedbacks regulate conditions at the surface of the Earth. This study adds a significant piece to our knowledge of how the Earth works and what we can do to keep it functioning properly.”