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

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Nature communications, ISSN: 2041-1723, Vol: 8, Issue: 1, Page: 201

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Mayol, Eva; Arrieta, Jesús M; Jiménez, Maria A; Martínez-Asensio, Adrián; Garcias-Bonet, Neus; Dachs, Jordi; González-Gaya, Belén; Royer, Sarah-J; Benítez-Barrios, Verónica M; Fraile-Nuez, Eugenio; Duarte, Carlos M Show More Hide
Springer Nature
Chemistry; Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; Physics and Astronomy
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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 × 10 and 2.1 × 10 cells, respectively. Overall 33-68% of these microorganisms could be traced to a marine origin, being transported thousands of kilometres 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.The extent to which the ocean acts as a sink and source of airborne particles to the atmosphere is unresolved. Here, the authors report high microbial loads over the tropical Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and propose islands as stepping stones for the transoceanic transport of terrestrial microbes..