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Rainforest Fertilizer
Teacher Contributed

Rainforest Fertilizer

Topic

Rainforest Productivity

Student Exploration

It Comes From Where?

Most of you have probably heard about the Amazon rainforest, the biggest tropical rainforest on the planet! The Amazon rainforest is 8,235,430 sq km (3,179,715 sq mi) which is bigger than the Continental United States (7,663,941.7 square km (2,959,064.44 square miles)) or Australia (7,686,850 sq km (2,967,909 square miles)) but not quite as big as Europe (9,938,000 square km (3,837,000 square miles)). If you haven't heard of the Amazon rainforest you can find out more here: http://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/

One characteristic of the Amazon rainforest is that its soil is extremely nutrient poor in some areas, most all the available nutrients are used up by the intense vegetation. Hmmm, so how does this place keep going? Are all the nutrients recycled to maintain the huge Amazon biomass? Well, no actually, there is so much vegetation in the Amazon that all the nutrient recycling isn't enough to support the amount of biomass seen. The Amazon rainforest is actually getting some help from some African fertilizer.

http://boingboing.net/2012/08/13/the-desert-that-creates-the-ra.html

Look here to see dust clouds being blown across the Atlantic Ocean.

Extension Investigation

Use the below resources to answer the following questions:

  1. What might happen if climate change led to more dust being blown from Africa? Explain your thinking.
  2. What might happen if climate change led to less dust being blown from Africa? Explain your thinking.
  3. What would happen if climate change led to no dust being blown from Africa? Explain your thinking.
  4. Design an experiment to test your thinking for the above 3 questions.
  5. How does the amount of phosphorus available in tropical leaf litter differ from the amount of available nitrogen? Which nutrient is most likely to be a limiting nutrient to plant growth?

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