We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.

Bacteria and Algae Hitch a Ride in Clouds

Bacteria and Algae Hitch a Ride in Clouds

Bacteria and Algae Hitch a Ride in Clouds

Bacteria and Algae Hitch a Ride in Clouds

A microscopic view of green algae cultivated from cloud water collected from the summit of puy de Dôme mountain in France. Credit: Kevin P. Dillon
Read time:

Want a FREE PDF version of This News Story?

Complete the form below and we will email you a PDF version of "Bacteria and Algae Hitch a Ride in Clouds"

First Name*
Last Name*
Email Address*
Company Type*
Job Function*
Would you like to receive further email communication from Technology Networks?

Technology Networks Ltd. needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy

Human health and ecosystems could be affected by microbes including cyanobacteria and algae that hitch rides in clouds and enter soil, lakes, oceans and other environments when it rains, according to a Rutgers co-authored study.

"Some of the organisms we detected in clouds and rain are known to have possible impacts on human health and could also affect microbial populations at rainfall locations," said lead author Kevin Dillon, a doctoral student in the lab of co-author Donna E. Fennell, a professor who chairs the Department of Environmental Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. "More work is needed to confirm that and to investigate specific impacts."

Scientists, for the first time, were able to grow green algae collected from clouds. Their study, a collaboration between Rutgers and a Université Clermont Auvergne team, is published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

They collected cloud water at the summit of puy de Dôme, a mountain in central France, about 4,800 feet above sea level. They also collected rainwater below the mountain at about 2,230 feet above sea level. They detected blue-green (cyanobacteria), green, red and golden algae, as well as diatoms (another form of algae), and they grew green algae in the Chlorellaceae family in a lab.

Some of the microbes that hitched a ride in clouds may have come from the Atlantic Ocean. Others were likely from other parts of France that clouds passed over. Microbes in rain include those in a cloud and the air below it.

The airborne organisms could have important impacts on atmospheric processes and the ecosystems they enter after falling to Earth, the study says.

"Future work would involve identifying specific genes associated with the production of toxins by these organisms and trying to understand what could or would limit the growth of these microorganisms after they're transported into a new ecosystem by rain," Dillon said.

Dillon K et al. Cyanobacteria and Algae in Clouds and Rain in the Area of puy de Dôme, Central France. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. Dec 2020, 87 (1) e01850-20. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01850-20

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.