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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 07 Jan 2019

Research article | 07 Jan 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Comprehensive characterization of an Aspen (Populus tremuloides) leaf litter sample that maintained ice nucleation activity for 48 years

Yalda Vasebi1,2,*, Marco E. Mechan Llontop1,*, Regina Hanlon1, David G. Schmale III1, Russell Schnell3, and Boris A. Vinatzer1 Yalda Vasebi et al.
  • 1School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
  • 2Plant Protection Department, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Tabriz, Tabriz, 51368, Iran
  • 3National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Global Monitoring Division, Boulder, CO 80303, USA
  • *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Decaying vegetation was determined to be a potentially important source of atmospheric ice nucleation particles (INPs) in the early 1970s. The bacterium Pseudomonas syringae was the first microorganism with ice nucleation activity (INA) isolated from decaying leaf litter in 1974. However, the ice nucleation characteristics of P. syringae are not compatible with the characteristics of leaf litter-derived INPs since the latter were found to be sub-micron in size while INA of P. syringae depends on much larger intact bacterial cells. Here we determined the cumulative ice nucleation spectrum and microbial community composition of the historic leaf litter sample 70-S-14 collected in 1970 that conserved INA for 48 years. The majority of the leaf litter-derived INPs were confirmed to be sub-micron in size and to be sensitive to boiling. Culture-independent microbial community analysis only identified Pseudomonas as potential INA. Culture-dependent analysis identified one P. syringae isolate, two isolates of the bacterial species Pantoea ananatis, and one fungal isolate of Mortierella alpina as having INA among 1170 bacterial colonies and 277 fungal isolates, respectively. Both, Pa. ananatis and M. alpina, are organisms that produce heat-sensitive sub-micron INPs. They are thus both likely sources of the INPs present in sample 70-S-14 and may represent important terrestrial sources of atmospheric INPs, a conclusion that is in line with other recent results obtained in regard to INPs from soil, precipitation, and the atmosphere.

Yalda Vasebi et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Yalda Vasebi et al.
Yalda Vasebi et al.
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Short summary
Ice nucleation particles (INPs) help ice form at temperatures as high as −4 °C and contribute to the formation of precipitation. Leaf litter contains a high concentration of INPs but the organisms that produce them are unknown. Here, we cultured two bacteria and one fungus from leaf litter that produce INPs similar to those found in leaf litter. This suggests that leaf litter may be an important habitat of these organisms and supports a role of these organisms as producers of atmospheric INPs.
Ice nucleation particles (INPs) help ice form at temperatures as high as −4 °C and contribute to...