Viability and potential for immigration of airborne bacteria from Africa that reach high mountain lakes in Europe

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SummaryWe have analysed the diversity of the bacteria, which grow after addition of concentrated airborne particles and desert dust in different microcosms combinations with water samples from oligotrophic alpine lakes. We used, on the one hand, airborne bacteria transported by an African dust plume and collected in a high mountain area in the central Pyrenees (Spain). On the other hand, we collected desert dust in Mauritania (c. 3000 km distance, and a few days estimated airborne journey), a known source region for dust storms in West Africa, which originates many of the dust plumes landing on Europe. In all the dust-amended treatments we consistently observed bacterial growth of common phyla usually found in freshwater ecosystems, i.e.Alpha-,Beta- andGammaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria,and a fewBacteroidetes,but with different composition based on lake water pretreatment and dust type. Overall, we tentatively split the bacterial community in (i) typical freshwater non-airborne bacteria, (ii) cosmopolitan long-distance airborne bacteria, (iii) non-freshwater low-distance airborne bacteria, (iv) non-freshwater long-distance airborne soil bacteria and (v) freshwater non-soil airborne bacteria. We identified viable long-distance airborne bacteria as immigrants in alpine lakes (e.g.Sphingomonas-like) but also viable putative airborne pathogens with the potential to grow in remote alpine areas (Acinetobacter-like andArthrobacter-like). Generation of atmospheric aerosols and remote dust deposition is a global process, largely enhanced by perturbations linked to the global change, and high mountain lakes are very convenient worldwide model systems for monitoring global-scale bacterial dispersion and pathogens entries in remote pristine environments.

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