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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-619
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-619
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 01 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 01 Aug 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

The global impact of bacterial processes on carbon mass

Barbara Ervens and Pierre Amato Barbara Ervens and Pierre Amato
  • Université Clermont Auvergne, CNRS, Sigma-Clermont, Institut de Chimie de Clermont-Ferrand, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France

Abstract. Many recent studies have identified biological material as a major fraction of ambient aerosol loading. A small fraction of these bioaerosols consist of bacteria that have attracted a lot of attention due to their role in cloud formation and adverse health effects. Current atmospheric models consider bacteria as inert quantities and neglect cell growth and multiplication. We provide here a framework to estimate the production of secondary biological aerosol (SBA) mass in clouds by microbial cell growth and multiplication. The best estimate of SBA formation rates of 3.7 Tg yr-1 are comparable to previous model estimates of the primary emission of bacteria into the atmosphere, and thus might represent a previously unrecognized source of biological aerosol material. We discuss in detail the large uncertainties associated with our estimates based on the rather sparse available data on bacteria abundance, growth conditions and properties. Additionally, the loss of water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) due to microbial processes in cloud droplets has been suggested to compete under some conditions with WSOC loss by chemical (OH) reactions. Our estimates suggest that microbial and chemical processes might lead to a global loss of WSOC of 8–11 Tg yr-1 and 8–20 Tg yr-1, respectively. While also this estimate is very approximate, the analysis of the uncertainties and ranges of all parameters gives hints about the conditions under which microbial processes cannot be neglected as organic carbon sinks in clouds. Our estimates also highlight the urgent needs for more data concerning microbial concentrations, fluxes and activity in the atmosphere to evaluate the role of bacterial processes as net aerosol sink or source on various spatial and temporal scales.

Barbara Ervens and Pierre Amato
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Status: open (until 26 Sep 2019)
Status: open (until 26 Sep 2019)
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Barbara Ervens and Pierre Amato
Barbara Ervens and Pierre Amato
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Latest update: 18 Aug 2019
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Short summary
Bacteria in the atmosphere are important due to their potential adverse health effects and as initiator of ice cloud formation. Observational studies suggest that bacteria grow and multiply in clouds and consume organic compounds. We estimate (i) the role of cell growth and multiplication for biological aerosol and (ii) the sink strength of microbial processes for organics in clouds. Our discussion of uncertainties shows the urgent need of additional studies on atmospheric bacteria.
Bacteria in the atmosphere are important due to their potential adverse health effects and as...
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