We all know how important oxygen is to life, but we don’t necessarily understand how it helps us to release energy.
Every time we breathe in, oxygen-rich air mixes with food we’ve eaten, and this creates energy. Our planet is bursting with life, and our population continues to grow, so how is there enough oxygen for everyone? It all began in a desert made of salt!
Every year 27 million tons of African dust drops out of the sky into Amazon Basin, and it turns out, that this dust is the perfect fertilizer! As this fertilizer helps the plants and trees grow, they turn the dioxide into oxygen. One single tree can produce enough oxygen to support two people, and the Amazon Rainforest, is ten times the size of Texas, producing 20 times more oxygen than all the people on the surface of the Earth could consume.
However, while the Amazon is known as the “Lungs of the World”, the truth about the impact of the oxygen created is even more amazing.
The Amazon Rainforest is the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest on earth. It represents half of the planet’s remaining rainforest and is home to half of all our plant and animal species – many of which are unique to the Amazon. The diverse ecosystem contains priceless and essential resources for human existence and longevity. It is a vital world treasure that must be protected and proactively sustained.
But - there is an even more important and little-known element of the Amazonian ecosystem. A river that is larger than the Amazon. Not a ground level river, but one in the sky.
Whilst it is very easy to get high quality pictures from space for some parts of the world, like the outback of Australia where it is almost always sunny, it can very difficult to get good quality satellite images of the Amazon.
If you explore the canopy at the top of the trees, you will understand why. Water gets sucked up from the forest floor, and when it hits the top of the trees, it combines with the sun and wind which turns it into a mighty river, a flying river.
If it was a normal river it would be the largest on the planet, even bigger than the Amazon. This river of cloud flows across South America, obscuring everything beneath it until it runs into a brick wall, 5,500 miles long and up to 4 miles high, the Andes, the clouds condense into raindrops, which then race down the slopes and flow directly back into the Amazon Basin eroding the rock and turning it into sediment until all those nutrients are dumped into a whole new world: the ocean.
Waiting for those sediments is an extraordinary organism, four times thinner than a human hair, called a diatom. Diatoms are the superhero of the Earth’s oxygen supply. They use silica from the rock sediment to create new shells, and this allow them to reproduce. Their population doubles every day, and they photosynthesize, which means that each one produces oxygen. But these little superheroes continue to do good after they die. Their carcasses slowly fall to the ocean floor, where they carpet it in a layer called marine snow. Over millions of years the sea beds rise, the ocean levels fall and the ocean floor becomes a salty desert. The African desert that was once a sea bed that blew all the way to the Amazon to make the rainforest grow was Diatom shells. And the Amazon is passing the benefits of these Diatoms on to the rest of the world to help create the oxygen that we breathe - everything is connected!
The global ecosystem is astounding in its complexity and connectivity, and to provide us with the air to breathe, we need all these connected eco-systems to work together.
This is why is so important to deploy technology to better understand the surprising ways the Amazon rainforest helps the whole planet breathe.
EBCF or the Brazilian Rainforest Conservation Company (Empresa Brasileira de Conservação de Florestas S.A.) and UnifAI Technology aim to introduce sensing and AI technology so that we can better monitor and understand something very special, the microbiome of the Amazon.
With our technology we aim to measure and understand how this flying river really affects our planet, and what changes are occurring over time.
Nuno Silva is Chief Scientific Officer of UnifAI Technology Ltd (https://www.unifaitechnology.com/)
Dr Robin Daniels is Chief Innovation Officer of EBCF Group and a Board Director of the Amazon Protection Foundation (https://amazoniansgreencoin.com/)
#agriculture #sustainability #ai #agritech #agribusiness #agrifood #artificialintelligence #amazon
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