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Bioprecipitation: a feedback cycle linking Earth history, ecosystem dynamics and land use through biological ice nucleators in the atmosphere

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Abstract

Landscapes influence precipitation via the water vapor and energy fluxes they generate. Biologically active landscapes also generate aerosols containing microorganisms, some being capable of catalyzing ice formation and crystal growth in clouds at temperatures near 0 °C. The resulting precipitation is beneficial for the growth of plants and microorganisms. Mounting evidence from observations and numerical simulations support the plausibility of a bioprecipitation feedback cycle involving vegetated landscapes and the microorganisms they host. Furthermore, the evolutionary history of ice nucleation-active bacteria such as Pseudomonas syringae supports that they have been part of this process on geological time scales since the emergence of land plants. Elucidation of bioprecipitation feedbacks involving landscapes and their microflora could contribute to appraising the impact that modified landscapes have on regional weather and biodiversity, and to avoiding inadvertent, negative consequences of landscape management.

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