Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-162
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-162

  01 Jul 2021

01 Jul 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Mass concentrations of autumn bioaerosol in a mature temperate woodland Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) experiment: investigating the role of meteorology and carbon dioxide levels

Aileen B. Baird1,2, Edward J. Bannister1,2, A. Robert MacKenzie1,2, and Francis D. Pope1,2 Aileen B. Baird et al.
  • 1School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B152TT, UK
  • 2Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B152TT, UK

Abstract. Forest environments contain a wide variety of airborne biological particles (bioaerosols), including pollen, fungal spores, bacteria, viruses, plant detritus and soil particles. Forest bioaerosol plays a number of important roles related to plant and livestock health, human disease and allergenicity, forest and wider ecology, and are thought to influence biosphere/atmosphere interactions via warm and cold cloud formation. Despite the importance of bioaerosols, there are few measurements of forest aerosol, and there is a lack of understanding of how climate change will affect forest bioaerosol in the future.

We installed low-cost optical particle counters (OPCs) to measure particles in the size range between 1 and 10 μm, where bioaerosols will likely dominate the particle mass concentration, for a period of two months in Autumn 2018 at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) facility. The BIFoR FACE facility fumigates three 700 m2 areas of the forest with an additional 150 ppm CO2 above ambient with minimal impacts on other potential environmental drivers such as temperature, humidity, and wind. This experimental set-up enabled us to investigate the effect of environmental variables, including elevated CO2 (eCO2), on bioaerosol concentrations, and to evaluate the performance of the low-cost OPCs in a forested environment.

Operating the low-cost OPCs during Autumn 2018, we aimed to capture predominantly the fungal bioaerosol season. Across the experimental duration, the OPCs captured both temporal and spatial variation in bioaerosol concentrations. Aerosol concentrations were affected by changing temperatures and wind speeds, but, contrary to our initial hypothesis, not by relative humidity. We detected no effect of the eCO2 treatment on total bioaerosol concentrations, but a potential suppression of high concentration bioaerosol events was detected under eCO2. In-canopy atmospheric dispersion modelling indicates that the median spore dispersion distance is sufficiently small that there is little mixing between treatment and control experiments. Our data demonstrate the suitability of low-cost OPCs, interpreted with due caution, for use in forests, and so opens the possibility of forest bioaerosol monitoring in a wider range of habitats, to a wider range of researchers at a modest cost.

Aileen B. Baird et al.

Status: open (until 26 Oct 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-162', Branko Sikoparija, 19 Jul 2021 reply
  • CC2: 'Comment on bg-2021-162', Matt Smith, 24 Jul 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2021-162', Madeleine Petersson Sjögren, 18 Oct 2021 reply

Aileen B. Baird et al.

Aileen B. Baird et al.

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Short summary
Forest environments contain a wide variety of airborne biological particles (bioaerosols) that are important for plant and animal health, and biosphere/atmosphere interactions. Using low-cost sensors and a FACE experiment, we monitor the impact of enhanced CO2 on airborne particles. No effect of the enhanced CO2 treatment on total particle concentrations was observed, but a potential suppression of high concentration bioaerosol events was detected under enhanced CO2.
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