Weather-dependent community shifts in the aerobiome: measuring airborne dispersal of plants, mesofauna and microbes simultaneously via DNA metabarcoding

G.A. de Groot, Stefan Geisen, E.R.J. Wubs, I. Laros, Liz Meulenbroek, A.T. Kuiters, P.A. Slim

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Understanding variation in airborne biological dispersal is relevant not only to understand biogeographical patterns, but also because various biological particles may be allergenic or pathogenic to plants or animals (including humans). Weather conditions will influence both the release and spread of biological propagules in the air, and thus the composition of the airborne community (the ‘aerobiome’). Molecular techniques are increasingly used to study airborne dispersal of bacteria and fungi, although often including a culturing step. Other life forms, mostly plants, have mainly been studied by analysing samples under the microscope. This limits the spatiotemporal scope and the ability to directly link the dispersal of flora and fauna to that of microbes.
We used DNA metabarcoding based on three genetic markers to study the entire aerobiome in direct DNA extracts from air samples taken over a continuous period of 21 days at two different sites on the Wageningen Campus. We observed a large diversity of microbes (bacteria, fungi and protists) as well as plants. Using multivariate and network analyses, we studied relations between the presence of taxa from different branches of the tree of life, and explored how community shifts related to meteorological parameters and life history traits.
We show that communities were dominated by spore forming fungi and protists, many of those resembling (plant) pathogens. Relations with weather conditions varied among taxa. Oomycetes for example, predominantly containing (plant) pathogens, occurred in much higher relative abundances at low air humidity, while many fungi and plants were still abundant on very rainy days. These types of observations may help to explore potential effects of climatic changes on species distributions and the spread of pests and diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2016
EventAnnual meeting of British Ecological Society (BES) - Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Dec 201614 Dec 2016


ConferenceAnnual meeting of British Ecological Society (BES)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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