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A gust of life

Contrary to its barren and lifeless character, the desert sand can at times prove to be a life-supporting element in the most unexpected areas. As dust and sand from the Algerian Sahara Desert blows across the Atlantic Ocean, it carries with itself a lot of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and iron, which act as a fertiliser and stimulate the production of massive plankton blooms. Sandstorms are very common over the Sahara, and large concentrations of the dust can be found in the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean. The blue and green swirls in the image show plankton blooms in the Atlantic. While some types of plankton are individually microscopic, the chlorophyll they use for photosynthesis collectively tints the colour of the surrounding ocean waters.

Image courtesy: ESA