Ride the dust: linking dust dispersal and spatial distribution of microorganisms across an arid landscape

Gabriele Schiro, Yongjian Chen, Joseph C. Blankinship, Albert Barberán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In arid ecosystems, where the soil is directly exposed to the action of the wind due to sparse vegetation, dust aerosolization is a consequence of soil degradation and concomitantly, a major vector of microbial dispersal. Disturbances such as livestock grazing or fire can exacerbate wind erosion and dust production. Here, we sampled surface soils in 29 locations across an arid landscape in southwestern USA and characterized their prokaryotic and fungal communities. At four of these locations, we also sampled potential fugitive dust. By comparing the composition of soil and dust samples, we determined the role of dust dispersal in structuring the biogeography of soil microorganisms across the landscape. For Bacteria/Archaea, we found dust associated taxa to have on average, higher regional occupancies compared to soil associated taxa. Complementarily, we found dust samples to harbour a higher amount of widely distributed taxa compared to soil samples. Overall, our study shows how dust dispersal plays a role in the spatial distribution of soil Bacteria/Archaea, but not soil Fungi, and might inform indicators of soil health and stability in arid ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4094-4107
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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