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Proceedings Paper

Clouds as habitat and seeders of active bacteria
Author(s): Birgit Sattler; Hans Puxbaum; Andreas Limbeck; Roland Psenner
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Paper Abstract

Transformation of organic and inorganic material in the atmosphere has been presumed to be caused by physical and chemical processes in the gas phase and in aerosol particles. Here we show that bacterial metabolism can play a measurable role in the production and transformation of organic carbon in cloud droplets collected at high altitudes, even at temperatures at or well below 0 degree(s)C. Although bacterial abundance and biomass in cloud water is low, compared to other oligotrophic aquatic environments, growth and carbon production rates per cell are approximately as high as in aquatic ecosystems. We hypothesize that microorganisms could play a crucial role in the transformation of airborne organic matter and the chemical composition of snow and rain. It has been recognized, the microbes can act as cloud condensation nuclei but we consider the impact on the global climate as low. With an increasing trend in cloudiness cloud systems can be seen as an ecosystem for active microbes with a seeding effort both for aquatic and terrestrial realms. Furthermore, air currents can distribute microbes over long distances to remote areas e.g. like ice caps and snow fields.

Paper Details

Date Published: 5 February 2002
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 4495, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV, (5 February 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.454760
Show Author Affiliations
Birgit Sattler, Univ. Innsbruck (Austria)
Hans Puxbaum, Technische Univ. Wien (Austria)
Andreas Limbeck, Technische Univ. Wien (Austria)
Roland Psenner, Univ. Innsbruck (Austria)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4495:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Roland R. Paepe; Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editor(s)

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