Microorganisms, including potential pathogens, travel from sea to land via fog
Fog can act as a vector for microbes, transferring them long distances and introducing them into new environments. So reports an analysis of the microbiology of coastal fog, recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
Co-author Kathleen Weathers, a Senior Scientist at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, explains, "Fog's role in transporting water and nutrients to coastal areas is well documented. Far less is known about the biology of fog, including the communities of microbes that live in fog droplets, and how they travel between marine and terrestrial ecosystems."
The research team tracked fungal and bacterial communities in fog delivered to two fog-dominated sites: Southport Island, Maine in the United States and the Namib Desert in Namibia. Their aim: to better understand how fog influences the transport of microbes from the Atlantic Ocean into these fog-fed terrestrial ecosystems.
At both sites, samples of fog, clear air, and rain were analyzed to record the variety and abundance of microorganisms present. In Maine, data were collected within 30 meters of the ocean during two field campaigns. In the Namib, data were collected at two sites located 55 kilometers and 50 kilometers away from the coast.
Air was sampled in Maine and the Namib before and after rain, fog, and high wind events to detect changes in airborne microbial composition due to weather conditions. Ocean water - where coastal fog originates - was also sampled. At both sites, bacterial and fungal DNA was extracted from filters; trends within and between sites were then analyzed.
Microbes on the move
Co-lead author Sarah Evans of Michigan State's Kellogg Biological Station explains, "Fog droplets were found to be an effective medium for microbial sustenance and transport. At both sites, microbial diversity was higher during and after foggy conditions when compared to clear conditions."
Marine influences on fog communities were greatest near the coast, but still evident 50 kilometers inland in the Namib Desert. Fog in both Maine and the Namib contained microbes from both soil and ocean sources.
Moisture in fog allows microbes to persist longer than they would in dry aerosols. As a result, fog deposits a greater abundance and diversity of microbes onto the land than deposition by air alone.
Co-lead author M. Elias Dueker of Bard College explains: "When fog rolls in, it can shift the composition of terrestrial airborne microbial communities. And in a fascinating twist, on the journey from the ocean to the land, microbes not only survive, but change during transport. Fog itself is a novel, living ecosystem."
Fog, climate, and health
The authors note the possible health implications of the marine-terrestrial fog connection. Fog at both sites contained pathogenic microbes, including suspected plant pathogens and species known to cause respiratory infections in immune-compromised people. This raises concern about the role that fog could play in transporting harmful microbes.
Dueker explains, "Bacterial and viral aerosols can originate from polluted waterways, such as those contaminated with sewage. When polluted water mixes with air, harmful substances become airborne and spread. These pathogens could also be incorporated in urban fog, increasing their threat to people, plants, and other animals."
"We need a better understanding of fog's role as a vector for microbes, with special attention to pathogens that threaten health," Weathers explains. "Warming sea surface temperatures and altered wind regimes are likely to affect fog distribution in many coastal regions."
The team identified the need for future studies that help predict which microbes are most likely to be transported and deposited by fog. Using traits like spore size and behavior, models could be developed that help forecast harmful fog.
Read the paper online.
Funding for this research was provided in part by the John Holden Adams Fund, the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, Michigan State's African Studies Center, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Sarah E. Evans - Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University
M. Elias Dueker - Bard College and Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Robert Logan - Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University
Kathleen C. Weathers - Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is an independent nonprofit center for environmental research. Since 1983, our scientists have been investigating the complex interactions that govern the natural world and the impacts of climate change on these systems. Our findings lead to more effective management and policy actions and increased environmental literacy. Staff are global experts in the ecology of: cities, disease, forests and freshwater.
Lori M. Quillen | EurekAlert!
First SARS-CoV-2 genomes in Austria openly available
03.04.2020 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
Do urban fish exhibit impaired sleep? Light pollution suppresses melatonin production in European perch
03.04.2020 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Drops of water falling on or sliding over surfaces may leave behind traces of electrical charge, causing the drops to charge themselves. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now begun a detailed investigation into this phenomenon that accompanies us in every-day life. They developed a method to quantify the charge generation and additionally created a theoretical model to aid understanding. According to the scientists, the observed effect could be a source of generated power and an important building block for understanding frictional electricity.
Water drops sliding over non-conducting surfaces can be found everywhere in our lives: From the dripping of a coffee machine, to a rinse in the shower, to an...
90 million-year-old forest soil provides unexpected evidence for exceptionally warm climate near the South Pole in the Cretaceous
An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have now...
The bacteria that cause tuberculosis need iron to survive. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now solved the first detailed structure of the transport protein responsible for the iron supply. When the iron transport into the bacteria is inhibited, the pathogen can no longer grow. This opens novel ways to develop targeted tuberculosis drugs.
One of the most devastating pathogens that lives inside human cells is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis. According to the...
An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.
A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...
Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.
The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.
02.04.2020 | Event News
26.03.2020 | Event News
23.03.2020 | Event News
03.04.2020 | Materials Sciences
03.04.2020 | Life Sciences
03.04.2020 | Life Sciences