The tradewinds blowing across the tropical Atlantic bring millions of tons of dust from the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa to the Caribbean every year. This atmospheric transportation has occurred for millenia, but scientists suspect that the quality and quantity of that dust may be changing and may affect humans and ecosystems where the dust is deposited.
Research has found that the dust that reaches the Caribbean contains viable bacteria and fungi, nutrients, and persistant organic pollutants. Scientists now study the connections between atmospheric deposition and the health of coral reefs.
Links and Sources
Coral Mortality and African Dust summarizes the US Geological Survey studies on the connections between coral mortality and African dust. View photos, satellite images, video documentary and reports.
When the Dust Settles summarizes NASA studies on African Dust and coral disease. Contains satellite images, links, and photos. Includes comparative photos from St. John on clear and dusty days.
Did You Know?
The Machineel tree, found along the coast, produces crab apple-like fruit that is poisonous. While the fruit is deadly [as Columbus’ men reportedly found out in 1493 when visiting the island], even sap from the Machineel tree can cause an irritating skin rash. The tree is also called Death Apple.