Global patterns and climatic controls of dust-associated microbial communities

Yongjian Chen, Matthew J. Gebert, Seth A. Faith, Robert R. Dunn, Noah Fierer, Albert Barberán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The ubiquity and long-range transport of the microorganisms inhabiting dust can pose a serious risk to human, animal, and plant health. The well-recognized importance of dust-associated microorganisms contrasts starkly with our limited understanding of the factors determining the variation in the composition of these communities at the global scale. Here, we provide the first insight into the global determinants of dust-associated microorganisms by quantifying the environmental factors shaping bacterial and fungal community composition in 467 outdoor settled dust samples collected from 33 countries and 6 continents. Our results show that the global variation in dust-associated bacterial and fungal community composition was, to some degree, predictable from mean annual precipitation and temperature. Notably, our results show that the fungal genera Alternaria and Aspergillus, which contain many species that can serve as triggers of allergenic disease in humans and as plant pathogens, were more abundant in drier regions. Collectively, these results highlight the key influence of climate on the global distribution of dust-associated microorganisms and provide the baseline information needed to build a more comprehensive understanding of how microbial exposures vary across the globe and in response to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01447-21
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Aerobiology
  • Allergens
  • Climate change
  • Dust microbiomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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