Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso


  • Rocco Mancinelli
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_37-4


Aerobiology is the study of the occurrence, movement, and dispersal of living or once-living material through the atmosphere.


The atmosphere presents a series of challenges for life, from radiation to desiccation. The absolute amount of solar radiation and the proportional contribution of ultraviolet-B and ultraviolet-C radiation increase with altitude, both of which are particularly hazardous to biomolecules. The low temperature and pressure at 29 km above the surface of the Earth are similar to those on Mars and create problems due to freezing and desiccation. Finally, the lack of nutrient availability in the atmosphere creates an additional challenge for life.

The survivalof airborne microbes should not be confused with growth and division while airborne. In fact, one of the critical questions that has yet to be answered unequivocally is, “do microbes metabolize and divide while airborne?” If they do, then the atmosphere may be considered a true habitat rather...


Biology, of the atmosphere Microorganisms, in the atmosphere Pollen Spores 
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References and Further Reading

  1. DeLeon-Rodriguez N, Latham TL, Rodriguea LM, Barasexh JM, Anderson BE, Beyersdorf AJ, Ziemba LD, Bergon M, Nenes A, Konstantinidis KT (2013) Microbiome of the upper troposphere: species composition and prevalence, effects of tropical storms, and atmospheric implications. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:2575–2580CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  2. Horneck G, Klaus D, Mancinelli RL (2010) Space microbiology. Mol Microbiol Rev 74:121–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Lacey ME, West JS (2007) The air spora – a manual for catching and identifying airborne biological particles. XV. Springer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  4. Mandrioli P, Caneva G, Sabbioni C (eds) (2003) Cultural heritage and aerobiology – methods and measurement techniques for biodeterioration monitoring. Kluwer, the Netherlands, 245 ppGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, NASA Ames Research InstituteNASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA