African dust once fertilized the Everglades | Science News

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African dust once fertilized the Everglades

Humans aren’t only source of nutrients for Florida’s wetlands

By
3:36pm, October 7, 2013

BLOWING IN THE WIND  About 4,600 years ago, African dust wafted across the Atlantic (simulation shown) and into the Florida Everglades where it fertilized aquatic plants, researchers say. 

Numerous water lilies and other aquatic flowers once dotted the grass carpets of Florida’s Everglades thanks to nutrient-bearing dust from Africa.

Windblown sediment from the Sahara Desert landed in Florida around 4,600 years ago and enriched its nutrient-poor wetlands, scientists report October 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But an abrupt shift in winds around 2,800 years ago downsized the dust dump and stifled the nutrient flow, the authors suggest.

The discovery of airborne fertilizer revises scientists’ understanding of the history and workings of the Everglades. Previously, most scientists thought the Everglades had been undernourished until nutrient-rich runoff from human development and agriculture began to seep in over the last century. Lead author and earth scientist Paul Glaser of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis says the

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