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Microbial Flow Within an Air-Phyllosphere-Soil Continuum

  • Zhou, Shu-Yi-Dan1, 2
  • Li, Hu1, 2, 3
  • Giles, Madeline4
  • Neilson, Roy4
  • Yang, Xiao-ru1, 2, 3
  • Su, Jian-qiang1, 2, 3
  • 1 Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiamen , (China)
  • 2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing , (China)
  • 3 Center for Excellence in Regional Atmospheric Environment, Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiamen , (China)
  • 4 Ecological Sciences, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee , (United Kingdom)
Published Article
Frontiers in Microbiology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jan 12, 2021
DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.615481
PMID: 33584580
PMCID: PMC7873851
PubMed Central


The phyllosphere is populated by numerous microorganisms. Microbes from the wider environment, i.e., air and soil, are considered key contributors to phyllosphere microbial communities, but their contribution is unclear. This study seeks to address this knowledge gap by controlling the movement of microbes along the air-phyllosphere-soil continuum. Customized equipment with dual chambers was constructed that permitted airflow to enter the first chamber while the second chamber recruited filtered microbe-free air from the initial chamber. Allium schoenoprasum (chive) and Sonchus oleraceus (sow thistle) were cultivated in both chambers, and the microbial communities from air, phyllosphere, and soil samples were characterized. Shares of microbial OTUs in the equipment suggested a potential interconnection between the air, phyllosphere, and soil system. Fast expectation-maximization microbial source tracking (FEAST) suggested that soil was the major source of airborne microbial communities. In contrast, the contribution of airborne and soil microbes to phyllosphere microbial communities of either A. schoenoprasum or S. oleraceus was limited. Notably, the soilborne microbes were the only environmental sources to phyllosphere in the second chamber and could affect the composition of phyllosphere microbiota indirectly by air flow. The current study demonstrated the possible sources of phyllosphere microbes by controlling external airborne microbes in a designed microcosm system and provided a potential strategy for recruitment for phyllosphere recruitment.

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