Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Airborne Microorganisms as Tracers of Microclimatic Changes in the Underground (Postojna Cave, Slovenia)


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May 2010


Bioaerosols in cave air can serve as natural tracers and, together with physical parameters, give a detailed view of conditions in the cave atmosphere and responses to climatic changes. Airborne microbes in the Postojna Cave system indicated very dynamic atmospheric conditions, especially in the transitory seasonal periods between winter and summer. Physical parameters of cave atmosphere explained the highest variance in structure of microbial community in the winter and in the summer. The airborne microbial community is composed of different microbial groups with generally low abundances. At sites with elevated organic input, occasional high concentrations of bacteria and fungi can be expected of up to 1,000 colony-forming units/m3 per individual group. The most abundant group of airborne amoebozoans were the mycetozoans. Along with movements of air masses, airborne algae also travel deep underground. In a cave passage with elevated radon concentration (up to 60 kBq/m3) airborne biota were less abundant; however, the concentration of DNA in the air was comparable to that in other parts of the cave. Due to seasonal natural air inflow, high concentrations of biological and inanimate particles are introduced underground. Sedimentation of airborne allochthonous material might represent an important and continuous source of organic material for cave fauna.


Radon, Radon Concentration, Cave System, Karst Cave, Canonical Correspondence, Analysis Analysis

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Microbial Ecology, Vol. 64 (2010-05-09).