Infection Dynamics of a Bloom-Forming Alga and Its Virus Determine Airborne Coccolith Emission from Seawater

Miri Trainic, Ilan Koren*, Shlomit Sharoni, Miguel Frada, Lior Segev, Yinon Rudich, Assaf Vardi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Sea spray aerosols (SSA), have a profound effect on the climate; however, the contribution of oceanic microbial activity to SSA is not fully established. We assessed aerosolization of the calcite units (coccoliths)that compose the exoskeleton of the cosmopolitan bloom-forming coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi. Airborne coccolith emission occurs in steady-state conditions and increases by an order of magnitude during E. huxleyi infection by E. huxleyi virus (EhV). Airborne to seawater coccolith ratio is 1:108, providing estimation of airborne concentrations from seawater concentrations. The coccoliths' unique aerodynamic structure yields a characteristic settling velocity of ∼0.01 cm s−1, ∼25 times slower than average sea salt particles, resulting in coccolith fraction enrichment in the air. The calculated enrichment was established experimentally, indicating that coccoliths may be key contributors to coarse mode SSA surface area, comparable with sea salt aerosols. This study suggests a coupling between key oceanic microbial interactions and fundamental atmospheric processes like SSA formation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 31 Aug 2018

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© 2018 The Author(s)


  • Atmospheric Science
  • Biogeoscience
  • Earth Sciences
  • Marine Organism


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