Aerobiology over the Southern Ocean – implications for bacterial colonization of Antarctica

Lucie A. Malard*, Maria Luisa Avila-Jimenez, Julia Schmale, Lewis Cuthbertson, Luke Cockerton, David Anthony Pearce*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Parts of the Antarctic are experiencing dramatic ecosystem change due to rapid and record warming, which may weaken biogeographic boundaries and dispersal barriers, increasing the risks of biological invasions. In this study, we collected air samples from 100 locations around the Southern Ocean to analyze bacterial biodiversity in the circumpolar air around the Antarctic continent as understanding dispersal processes is paramount to assessing the risks of microbiological invasions. We also compared the Southern Ocean air bacterial biodiversity to other non-polar ecosystems to identify the potential origin of these Southern Ocean air microorganisms. The bacterial diversity in the air had both local and global origins and presented low richness overall but high heterogeneity, compatible with a scenario whereby samples are composed of a suite of different species in very low relative abundances. Only 4% of Amplicon Sequence Variants (ASVs) were identified in both polar and non-polar air masses, suggesting that the polar air mass over the Southern Ocean can act as a selective dispersal filter. Furthermore, both microbial diversity and community structure both varied significantly with meteorological data, suggesting that regional bacterial biodiversity could be sensitive to changes in weather conditions, potentially altering the existing pattern of microbial deposition in the Antarctic
Original languageEnglish
Article number107492
JournalEnvironmental International
Early online date30 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Aug 2022


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