Significance

This manuscript describes a precise diel cycle carried out by airborne microbiota in the tropics. 795 metagenomes from air samples taken from a single site show that fungi, bacteria, and plants all adhere to a specific timing for their presence in the near-surface atmosphere. The airborne community composition thereby shows an unexpected robustness, with the majority of the dynamics in taxa composition occurring within 24 h, but not across days, weeks, or months. Environmental parameters are the main drivers for the observed phenomenon, with temperature being the most important one.

Abstract

The atmosphere is vastly underexplored as a habitable ecosystem for microbial organisms. In this study, we investigated 795 time-resolved metagenomes from tropical air, generating 2.27 terabases of data. Despite only 9 to 17% of the generated sequence data currently being assignable to taxa, the air harbored a microbial diversity that rivals the complexity of other planetary ecosystems. The airborne microbial organisms followed a clear diel cycle, possibly driven by environmental factors. Interday taxonomic diversity exceeded day-to-day and month-to-month variation. Environmental time series revealed the existence of a large core of microbial taxa that remained invariable over 13 mo, thereby underlining the long-term robustness of the airborne community structure. Unlike terrestrial or aquatic environments, where prokaryotes are prevalent, the tropical airborne biomass was dominated by DNA from eukaryotic phyla. Specific fungal and bacterial species were strongly correlated with temperature, humidity, and CO2 concentration, making them suitable biomarkers for studying the bioaerosol dynamics of the atmosphere.

 

Credit: CDC

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