African Dust and Coral Reef Health
October 03, 2000
This image was taken from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite and shows dust streaming off of western Africa and over the Cape Verde Islands and the Atlantic Ocean. Winds blowing out of Africa and into the Atlantic may help inititiate hurricane development, and now research performed by the US Geological Survey Center for Coastal Geology in Florida, has shown that dust carried by these winds may also be harmful to coral reefs in the Carribean Sea. A type of fungus (Aspergillus spores) found in the dust has been identified in coral reefs of the Virgin Islands, and die offs of the coral has been associated with drought in western Africa. Additionally, the dust carries nutrients such as iron that may trigger the growth of phytoplankton and algae. Thus, there is a possibility that the die off and regeneration of coral in the Carribean is linked to cyclic episodes of drought across western Africa.