Long-range transport of airborne microbes over the global tropical and subtropical ocean

Eva Mayol, Jesús M Arrieta, Maria A Jiménez, Adrián Martínez-Asensio, Neus Garcias-Bonet, Jordi Dachs, Belén González-Gaya, Sarah-J Royer, Verónica M Benítez-Barrios, Eugenio Fraile-Nuez, Carlos M Duarte
Nature Communications 8, article number 201, (2017)

Long-range transport of airborne microbes over the global tropical and subtropical ocean

Keywords

Air microbiology, Biodiversity, Marine bilogy, Marine mircobiology, Microbial ecology

Abstract

​The atmosphere plays a fundamental role in the transport of microbes across the planet but it is often neglected as a microbial habitat. Although the ocean represents two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, there is little information on the atmospheric microbial load over the open ocean. Here we provide a global estimate of microbial loads and air-sea exchanges over the tropical and subtropical oceans based on the data collected along the Malaspina 2010 Circumnavigation Expedition. Total loads of airborne prokaryotes and eukaryotes were estimated at 2.2 × 1021 and 2.1 × 1021 cells, respectively. Overall 33–68% of these microorganisms could be traced to a marine origin, being transported thousands of kilometers before re-entering the ocean. Moreover, our results show a substantial load of terrestrial microbes transported over the oceans, with abundances declining exponentially with distance from land and indicate that islands may act as stepping stones facilitating the transoceanic transport of terrestrial microbes.

Code

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00110-9

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