Washington, November 5 (ANI): A new study has found that the Amazon jungle, the most robust of the world's rain forests, suffers from "chronic malnutrition" due to a lack of salt, which helps to keep carbon dioxide emissions at bay.
According to a report in the National Geographic News, researchers at the University of Oklahoma carried out the study.
It determined that the carbon build-up spurred by lack of salt in some forests might be keeping our atmosphere cooler.
Decomposers-life-forms that munch on dead plants-don't get enough of the vital mineral, which deep in the rain forest comes primarily from mammal urine.
That lack of salt keeps decomposer numbers in check, while plants, which don't need salt, flourish, piling up carbon on the forest floor when they die.
"The tropics is a place for happy plants and less happy" decomposers, said study leader Michael Kaspari, a zoologist at the University of Oklahoma.
When researchers sprinkled a salt solution in the Peruvian Amazon, plant-eaters such as termites and bacteria sprung to life and quickly devoured the detritus.
"We were terribly surprised to find how fast a little bit of sodium in the ecosystem starts (the process of) breaking down accumulated litter," Kaspari said.
For their experiment, Kaspari and colleagues added measured amounts of water to pairs of plots in an old-growth forest near Iquitos, Peru, about 1,242 miles (2,000 kilometers) from the ocean.
Every other day, the team added salt and stream water to 35 of the plots, while another 35 received just stream water.
After 18 days, "some of the scariest-looking termites I've ever seen" began swarming in the salted plots, increasing sevenfold in number, Kaspari said.
"Ants-a common termite predator-increased twofold in number," Kaspari said.
Overall, the leaf litter in the salty plots began disappearing 41 percent faster than before, according to the study. (ANI)