Carbon content of common airborne fungal species and fungal contribution to aerosol organic carbon in a subtropical city

Jessica Y.W. Cheng, Chak K. Chan, C. T. Lee, Arthur P.S. Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Interest in the role and contribution of fungi to atmospheric aerosols and processes grows in the past decade. Substantial data or information such as fungal mass or carbon loading to ambient aerosols is however still lacking. This study aimed to quantify the specific organic carbon content (OC per spore) of eleven fungal species commonly found airborne in the subtropics, and estimated their contribution to organic carbon in aerosols. The specific OC contents showed a size-dependent relationship (r = 0.64, p < 0.05) and ranged from 3.6 to 201.0 pg carbon per spore or yeast cell, giving an average of 6.0 pg carbon per spore (RSD 51%) for spore or cell size less than 10 μm. In accounting for natural variations in the composition and abundance of fungal population, weighted-average carbon content for field samples was adopted using the laboratory determined specific OC values. An average of 5.97 pg carbon per spore (RSD 3.8%) was enumerated from 28 field samples collected at the university campus. The mean fungal OC concentration was 3.7, 6.0 and 9.7 ng m-3 in PM2.5, PM2.5-10 and PM10, respectively. These corresponded to 0.1%, 1.2% and 0.2% of the total OC in PM2.5, PM2.5-10 and PM10, respectively. In the study period, rain provided periods with low total OC but high fungal prevalence and fungi contributed 7-32% OC in PM2.5-10 or 2.4-7.1% OC in PM10. More extensive studies are deserved to better understand the spatial-, temporal- and episodic dependency on the fungal OC contribution to the atmospheric aerosols.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2781-2787
Number of pages7
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number17
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • Fungal carbon
  • Fungal contribution
  • Organic carbon
  • Subtropics
  • Weighted-average carbon content


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