Authors: Melissa R.A. Pingree; Leda N. KobziarSmoke, emissions, and soil heating are prominent research programs, yet there is a startling lack of research regarding the biological impact of aerosolized pyrogenic particles transported by smoke plumes from the partial combustion of the forest floor. Here we introduce the interdisciplinary study of transport and characterization of aerosolized organisms via smoke plumes, hereto referred to as pyroaerobiology (PAB). We conducted experiments during prescribed fires and experimental laboratory fires to gain an understanding of the capacity for smoke to hold aloft viable fungal and bacterial colonies and how different combustion processes or sites altered colony forming units and morphotype diversity. During flaming and smoldering combustion in the field and lab we exposed PDA petri plates to smoke for one minute, incubated the plates for 3 – 10 days and visually quantified total colony forming units (CFUs). Preliminary results show that, during lab burns, total CFUs were significantly higher at sites with fuel reduction treatments (p < 0.01). During field prescribed burns, CFUs were negatively (r = 0.6) and significantly (p < 0.001) related distance from the burn during flaming combustion. We found similar numbers of CFUs in ambient background, smoldering, and flaming combustion from both field and lab burns.
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