The biology of fog: results from coastal Maine and Namib Desert reveal common drivers of fog microbial composition

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Abstract

Fog supplies water and nutrients to systems ranging from coastal forests to inland deserts. Fog droplets can also contain bacterial and fungal aerosols, but our understanding of fog biology is limited. Using metagenomic tools and culturing, we provide a unique look at fungal and bacterial communities in fog at two fog-dominated sites: coastal Maine (USA) and the Namib Desert (Namibia). Microbial communities in the fog at both sites were diverse, distinct from clear aerosols, and influenced by both soil and marine sources. Fog from both sites contained Actinobacteria and Firmicutes, commonly soil- and air-associated phyla, but also contained bacterial taxa associated with marine environments including Cyanobacteria, Oceanospirillales, Novosphingobium, Pseudoalteromonas, and Bradyrhizobiaceae. Marine influence on fog communities was greatest near the coast, but still evident in Namib fogs 50 km inland. In both systems, differences between pre- and post-fog aerosol communities suggest that fog events can significantly alter microbial aerosol diversity and composition. Fog is likely to enhance viability of transported microbes and facilitate their deposition, making fog biology ecologically important in fog-dominated environments. Fog may introduce novel species to terrestrial ecosystems, including human and plant pathogens, warranting further work on the drivers of this important and underrecognized aerobiological transfer between marine and terrestrial systems.

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Evans, S. E., Dueker, M. E., Logan, J. R., & Weathers, K. C. (2019). The biology of fog: results from coastal Maine and Namib Desert reveal common drivers of fog microbial composition. Science of the Total Environment, 647, 1547–1556. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.045

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