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!
New mechanisms regulating neural stem cells
21.02.2019 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
A landscape of mammalian development
21.02.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für molekulare Genetik
Up to now, OLEDs have been used exclusively as a novel lighting technology for use in luminaires and lamps. However, flexible organic technology can offer much more: as an active lighting surface, it can be combined with a wide variety of materials, not just to modify but to revolutionize the functionality and design of countless existing products. To exemplify this, the Fraunhofer FEP together with the company EMDE development of light GmbH will be presenting hybrid flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs within the EU-funded project PI-SCALE for the first time at LOPEC (March 19-21, 2019 in Munich, Germany) as examples of some of the many possible applications.
The Fraunhofer FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, has long been involved in the development of...
For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.
The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...
Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens
Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...
Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light
When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...
The so-called Abelian sandpile model has been studied by scientists for more than 30 years to better understand a physical phenomenon called self-organized...
11.02.2019 | Event News
30.01.2019 | Event News
16.01.2019 | Event News
21.02.2019 | Earth Sciences
21.02.2019 | Trade Fair News
21.02.2019 | Life Sciences