Ergosterol, arabitol and mannitol as tracers for biogenic aerosols in the eastern Mediterranean N. Burshtein, N. Lang-Yona, and Y. Rudich Department of Environmental Sciences and Energy Research, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
Abstract. Aerosols containing biological components can have a significant effect on
human health by causing primarily irritation, infection and allergies.
Specifically, airborne fungi can cause a wide array of adverse responses in
humans depending on the type and quantity present. In this study we used
chemical biomarkers for analyzing fungi-containing aerosols in the eastern
Mediterranean region during the year 2009 in order to quantify annual fungal
abundances. The prime marker for fungi used in this study was ergosterol,
and its concentrations were compared with those of mannitol and arabitol
which were recently suggested to also correlate with fungal spores
concentrations (Bauer et al., 2008a). Back trajectory
analysis, inorganic ions, humidity and temperature were used in an attempt
to identify sources as well as the dependence on seasonal and environmental
conditions. We found that the ambient concentrations of ergosterol, arabitol
and mannitol range between 0 and 2.73 ng m−3, 1.85 and 58.27 ng m−3,
5.57 and 138.03 ng m−3, respectively. The highest levels for
all biomarkers were during the autumn, probably from local terrestrial
sources, as deduced from the inorganic ions and back trajectory analysis.
Significant correlations were observed between arabitol and mannitol during
the entire year except for the winter months. Both sugars correlated with
ergosterol only during the spring and autumn. We conclude that mannitol and
arabitol might not be specific biomarkers for fungi and that the observed
correlations during spring and autumn may be attributed to high levels of
vegetation during spring blossoms and autumn decomposing.
Citation: Burshtein, N., Lang-Yona, N., and Rudich, Y.: Ergosterol, arabitol and mannitol as tracers for biogenic aerosols in the eastern Mediterranean, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 829-839, doi:10.5194/acp-11-829-2011, 2011.