Exposure to airborne bacteria depends upon vertical stratification and vegetation complexity

Jake M. Robinson, Christian Cando-Dumancela, Rachael Antwis, Ross Cameron, Craig Liddicoat, Ravin Poudel, Philip Weinstein, Martin F. Breed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


Exposure to biodiverse aerobiomes supports human health, but it is unclear which ecological factors influence exposure. Few studies have investigated near-surface green space aerobiome dynamics, and no studies have reported aerobiome vertical stratification in different urban green spaces. We used columnar sampling and next generation sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene, combined with geospatial and network analyses to investigate urban green space aerobiome spatio-compositional dynamics. We show a strong effect of habitat on bacterial diversity and network complexity. We observed aerobiome vertical stratification and network complexity that was contingent on habitat type. Tree density, closer proximity, and canopy coverage associated with greater aerobiome alpha diversity. Grassland aerobiomes exhibited greater proportions of putative pathogens compared to scrub, and also stratified vertically. We provide novel insights into the urban ecosystem with potential importance for public health, whereby the possibility of differential aerobiome exposures appears to depend on habitat type and height in the airspace. This has important implications for managing urban landscapes for the regulation of aerobiome exposure.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9516
Number of pages16
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2021


  • Biodiversity
  • Ecology


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