Microbiology of wind-eroded sediments: current knowledge and future research directions

Wind erosion is a threat to the sustainability and productivity of soils that takes place at local, regional, and global scales. Current estimates of the cost of wind erosion have not included the costs associated with the loss of soil biodiversity and reduced ecosystem functions. Microorganisms carried in dust are responsible for numerous critical ecosystem processes including biogeochemical cycling of nutrients, carbon storage, soil aggregation, and transformation of toxic compounds in the source soil. Currently, much of the information on microbial transport in dust has been collected at continental scales, with no comprehensive review regarding the microbial communities, particularly those associated with agricultural systems, redistributed by wind erosion processes at smaller scales including regional or field scales. Agricultural systems can contribute significantly to atmospheric dust loading and loss or redistribution of soil microorganisms are impacted in three interactive ways: (1) differential loss of certain microbial taxa depending on particle size and wind conditions, (2) through the destabilization of soil aggregates and reduction of available surfaces, and (3) through the reduction of organic matter and substrates for the remaining community. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of dust sampling technologies, methods for microbial extraction from dust, and how abiotic, environmental, and management factors influence the dust microbiome within and among agroecosystems. The review also offers a perspective on important potential future research avenues with a focus on agroecosystems and the inclusion of the fungal component.