Dust-associated airborne microbes affect primary and bacterial production rates, and eukaryotes diversity, in the Northern Red Sea: A mesocosm approach

Esra Mescioglu, Eyal Rahav, Miguel J. Frada, Sahar Rosenfeld, Ofrat Raveh, Yuri Galletti, Chiara Santinelli, Barak Herut, Adina Paytan

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17 Scopus citations


The northern Red Sea (NRS) is a low-nutrient, low-chlorophyll (LNLC) ecosystem with high rates of atmospheric deposition due to its proximity to arid regions. Impacts of atmospheric deposition on LNLC ecosystems have been attributed to the chemical constituents of dust, while overlooking bioaerosols. Understanding how these vast areas of the ocean will respond to future climate and anthropogenic change hinges on the response of microbial communities to these changes. We tested the impacts of bioaerosols on the surface water microbial diversity and the primary and bacterial production rates in the NRS, a system representative of other LNLC oceanic regions, using a mesocosm bioassay experiment. By treating NRS surface seawater with dust, which contained nutrients, metals, and viable organisms, and "UV-treated dust" (which contained only nutrients and metals), we were able to assess the impacts of bioaerosols on local natural microbial populations. Following amendments (20 and 44 h) the incubations treated with "live dust" showed different responses than those with UV-treated dust. After 44 h, primary production was suppressed (as much as 50%), and bacterial production increased (as much as 55%) in the live dust treatments relative to incubations amended with UV-treated dust or the control. The diversity of eukaryotes was lower in treatments with airborne microbes. These results suggest that the airborne microorganisms and viruses alter the surface microbial ecology of the NRS. These results may have implications for the carbon cycle in LNLC ecosystems, which are expanding and are especially important since dust storms are predicted to increase in the future due to desertification and expansion of arid regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number358
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors.


Acknowledgments: This study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant 1211/17) to B. H and E. R and by the NSF-OCE (grant 0850467) and the NSF-OISE (grant 1358134) to A. P. E.M was supported by the NSF GRFP. Y. G. was supported by the Banca del Monte di Lombardia Foundation. We would like to thank Wan-Chen Tu for her contribution on the trace metal analysis. The authors thank the personnel in the InterUniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat (IUI).

FundersFunder number
Banca del Monte di Lombardia Foundation
National Science Foundation1358134
Israel Science Foundation1211/17


    • Airborne microbes
    • Bacterial production
    • Bioaerosols
    • Low-chlorophyll low-nutrient
    • Northern Red Sea
    • Primary production


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