A long-term survey unveils strong seasonal patterns in the airborne microbiome coupled to general and regional atmospheric circulations

Caliz, JoanTriadó-Margarit, XavierCamarero, Lluís Casamayor, Emilio O.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences : 10.1073/pnas.1812826115 (2018) DIGITAL CSIC

Airborne microbes (bacteria, archaea, protists, and fungi) were surveyed over a 7-y period via high-throughput massive sequencing of 16S and 18S rRNA genes in rain and snow samples collected fortnightly at a high-elevation mountain Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network site (LTER-Aigüestortes, Central Pyrenees, Spain). This survey constitutes the most comprehensive mountain-top aerobiology study reported to date. The air mass origins were tracked through modeled back-trajectories and analysis of rain water chemical composition. Consistent microbial seasonal patterns were observed with highly divergent summer and winter communities recurrent in time. Indicative microbial taxa were unveiled as a forensic signature, and ubiquitous taxa were observed as common atmosphere inhabitants, highlighting aerosols as a potentially successful mechanism for global microbial dispersal. Source-tracking analyses identified freshwater, cropland, and urban biomes as the most important sources for airborne bacteria in summer, while marine and forest biomes prevailed in winter, in agreement with air mass retrotrajectories and the prevailing general and regional atmospheric circulation.