Articles | Volume 14, issue 16
Research article
26 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 26 Aug 2014

Ice nucleation by fungal spores from the classes Agaricomycetes, Ustilaginomycetes, and Eurotiomycetes, and the effect on the atmospheric transport of these spores

D. I. Haga, S. M. Burrows, R. Iannone, M. J. Wheeler, R. H. Mason, J. Chen, E. A. Polishchuk, U. Pöschl, and A. K. Bertram

Abstract. We studied the ice nucleation properties of 12 different species of fungal spores chosen from three classes: Agaricomycetes, Ustilaginomycetes, and Eurotiomycetes. Agaricomycetes include many types of mushroom species and are widely distributed over the globe. Ustilaginomycetes are agricultural pathogens and have caused widespread damage to crops. Eurotiomycetes are found on all types of decaying material and include important human allergens. We focused on these classes because they are thought to be abundant in the atmosphere and because there is very little information on the ice nucleation ability of these classes of spores in the literature. All of the fungal spores investigated contained some fraction of spores that serve as ice nuclei at temperatures warmer than homogeneous freezing. The cumulative number of ice nuclei per spore was 0.001 at temperatures between −19 °C and −29 °C, 0.01 between −25.5 °C and −31 °C, and 0.1 between −26 °C and −31.5 °C. On average, the order of ice nucleating ability for these spores is Ustilaginomycetes > AgaricomycetesEurotiomycetes. The freezing data also suggests that, at temperatures ranging from −20 °C to −25 °C, all of the fungal spores studied here are less efficient ice nuclei compared to Asian mineral dust on a per surface area basis. We used our new freezing results together with data in the literature to compare the freezing temperatures of spores from the phyla Basidiomycota and Ascomycota, which together make up 98% of known fungal species found on Earth. The data show that within both phyla (Ascomycota and Basidiomycota), there is a wide range of freezing properties, and also that the variation within a phylum is greater than the variation between the average freezing properties of the phyla. Using a global chemistry–climate transport model, we investigated whether ice nucleation on the studied spores, followed by precipitation, can influence the transport and global distributions of these spores in the atmosphere. Simulations suggest that inclusion of ice nucleation scavenging of these fungal spores in mixed-phase clouds can decrease the annual mean concentrations of fungal spores in near-surface air over the oceans and polar regions, and decrease annual mean concentrations in the upper troposphere.

Final-revised paper