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Backyard Nature Notes: Dust, Dust, Everywhere!

Dust is such a humble subject. One that we overlook most of the time. One that irritates us occasionally. are a few elements of surprise about this humble little 0.002 mm character of nature!

Think birds taking a dustbath. A tiny "puddle" of dust provides a good summer sizzlin' cleansin' bath for our wild birds. The dust removes parasites, dirt...and who know what else!

Think American Dustbowl days. This huge rampage of high winds across America's bread-basket ripped off the rich topsoil and deposited most of it in the Gulf of Mexico. This "unnatural" phenomenon was caused by over-farming the rich wheat fields in the early 1900s...causing the soil to lose its reduce crops...and to cause giant bare spots that dried in a cyclical drought. Then the winds came, and the soil went!

Think rain and snow. Droplets of moisture form around tiny dust particles, gain weight and fall to earth. But what size dust particles are best? Hmmmmmmm.....

Think allergies. Pollen and dust are key irritants for eyes, throats, and other of our 2000 body parts ;-) But what's the story here?

NASA has now identified huge dust clouds that travel from Africa to North America. Across the Atlantic Ocean...depositing microbes and soil thousands of miles away. And on the flip side of the globe... dust clouds from the Asian deserts also reach the American coasts occasionally. Hmmmmmmm.

We don't live in Kansas anymore!

"This constant reshuffling of the world's sand and dust ties the continents together and serves as a reminder that, in the natural world, there are no political boundaries. Airborne microbes and pollen in Florida or Brazil might have come from Africa. Mineral dust in the soils of India could have blown over from Iran."

So your backyard dust just might be visiting from Africa...I bet you didn't realize you have had such exotic visitors all this time!!!!

For the full story of recent discoveries...along with some wonderful animated dust clouds, check out "All the World's a Stage ... for Dust" Watch NASA's imagery of giant dust clouds as they ride global rivers of air, cross-pollinating continents with topsoil and microbes.

And your head scratchin' question of the day is, "How will draining our aquafers to irrigate city lawns, golf courses and high-intensity farming affect our own topsoil health?" Hmmmmm......

Just a thought to ponder as we celebrate our American Declaration of Independence ... our topsoil of freedom ... on this July 4th.

For more articles about CONSERVATION & GARDENING

When is a plant a weed?
Saving Topsoil
Controlling Slugs and Snails
California Heritage Gardens
Walk Gently with the Earth
Weather and Temperature are Linked to Landscaping