Contribution of leaf surface fungi to the air spora
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High concentrations of airborne fungal spores frequently occur from spring through fall in temperate areas of the world. Although it is generally assumed that fungi on leaf surfaces are contributors to the air spora, little data are available comparing the types of fungi found on leaf surfaces with those in the atmosphere. Air sampling was carried out with a Burkard Spore Trap located on the roof of a building on the University of Tulsa campus using standard methods. Leaf samples were aseptically collected from Ulmus americana and Quercus palustris trees on campus, placed in sterile plastic bags, and brought to the lab. For each leaf, 4 cm2 areas of both upper and lower leaf surfaces were swabbed and plated on malt extract agar with streptomycin. Cultures were incubated at room temperature for 5–7 days and then examined microscopically. Results were expressed as colony forming units (CFU)/cm2. Twenty-one fungal taxa were identified from the air samples. The most abundant taxa were Cladosporium, ascospores, basidiospores, and Alternaria; together these four spore types comprised over 90% of the yearly total. Yeasts were the most abundant fungi isolated from both leaf types. Among the mycelial fungi were Phoma species, followed by Cladosporium and Alternaria. Overall twenty genera of filamentous fungi were identified. Yeasts and Phoma are normally splash dispersed and were not identified in the Burkard air samples. However, 10 taxa isolated from leaf surfaces were registered in air samples. Crude estimates of the leaf surface area of each tree suggest that the total fungal load was approximately 5.04×108 CFU for Ulmus and 2.71×108 CFU for Quercus. Of these levels, 19% were from fungi also detected in air samples. The data suggest that some leaf-surface fungi are major contributors to the air spora.
Keywordsair spora Alternaria Cladosporium leaf surface fungi Phoma yeasts
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Assistance of Claudia Owens for help with air sample analysis is greatly appreciated. This study was funded in part by a grant from the University of Tulsa, Office of Research.
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