Large quantities of free protein in the environment and other bioaerosols are ubiquitous throughout terrestrial ground level environments and may be integrative indicators of ecosystem status. Samples of ground level bioaerosols were collected from various ecosystems throughout Ecuador, including pristine humid tropical forest (pristine), highly altered secondary humid tropical forest (highly altered), secondary transitional very humid forest (regrowth transitional), and suburban dry montane deforested (suburban deforested). The results explored the sensitivity of localized aerosol protein concentrations to spatial and temporal variations within ecosystems, and their value for assessing environmental change. Ecosystem specific variations in environmental protein concentrations were observed: pristine 0.32 ± 0.09 μg/m3, highly altered 0.07 ± 0.05 μg/m3, regrowth transitional 0.17 ± 0.06 μg/m3, and suburban deforested 0.09 ± 0.04 μg/m3. Additionally, comparisons of intra-environmental differences in seasonal/daily weather (dry season 0.08 ± 0.03 μg/m3 and wet season 0.10 ± 0.04 μg/m3), environmental fragmentation (buffered 0.19 ± 0.06 μg/m3 and edge 0.15 ± 0.06 μg/m3), and sampling height (ground level 0.32 ± 0.09 μg/m3 and 10 m 0.24 ± 0.04 μg/m3) demonstrated the sensitivity of protein concentrations to environmental conditions. Local protein concentrations in altered environments correlated well with satellite-based spectral indices describing vegetation productivity: normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) (r2 = 0.801), net primary production (NPP) (r2 = 0.827), leaf area index (LAI) (r2 = 0.410). Moreover, protein concentrations distinguished the pristine site, which was not differentiated in spectral indices, potentially due to spectral saturation typical of highly vegetated environments. Bioaerosol concentrations represent an inexpensive method to increase understanding of environmental changes, especially in densely vegetated ecosystems with high canopies or in areas needing high spatial and temporal resolution. Further research to expand understanding of the applicability of bioaerosol concentrations for environmental monitoring is supported by this pilot study.
- Environmental monitoring
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Decision Sciences(all)
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics