Characterization of active and total fungal communities in the atmosphere over the Amazon rainforest
Abstract. Fungi are ubiquitous in the atmosphere and may play an important role in atmospheric processes. We investigated the composition and diversity of fungal communities over the Amazon rainforest canopy and compared these communities to fungal communities found in terrestrial environments. We characterized the total fungal community and the metabolically active portion of the community using high-throughput DNA and RNA sequencing and compared these data to predictions generated by a mass-balance model. We found that the total community was primarily comprised of fungi from the phylum Basidiomycota. In contrast, the active community was primarily composed of members of the phylum Ascomycota and included a high relative abundance of lichen fungi, which were not detected in the total community. The relative abundance of Basidiomycota and Ascomycota in the total and active communities was consistent with our model predictions, suggesting that this result was driven by the relative size and number of spores produced by these groups. When compared to other environments, fungal communities in the atmosphere were most similar to communities found in tropical soils and leaf surfaces. Our results demonstrate that there are significant differences in the composition of the total and active fungal communities in the atmosphere, and that lichen fungi, which have been shown to be efficient ice nucleators, may be abundant members of active atmospheric fungal communities over the forest canopy.