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Biodegradation by bacteria in clouds: an underestimated sink for some organics in the atmospheric multiphase system

Abstract : Water-soluble organic compounds represent a significant fraction of total atmospheric carbon. The main oxidants towards them in the gas and aqueous phases are OH and NO3 radicals. In addition to chemical solutes, a great variety of microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi) have been identified in cloud water. Previous lab studies suggested that for some organics, biodegradation by bacteria in water is comparable to their loss by chemical processes. We perform model sensitivity studies over large ranges of biological and chemical process parameters using a box model with a detailed atmospheric multiphase chemical mechanism and biodegradation processes to explore the importance of biodegradation of organics in the aqueous phase. Accounting for the fact that only a small number fraction of cloud droplets (∼0.0001–0.001) contains active bacterial cells, we consider only a few bacteria-containing droplets in the model cloud. We demonstrate that biodegradation might be most efficient for water-soluble organic gases with intermediate solubility (∼104≤KH(eff) [M atm−1] ≤106, e.g., formic and acetic acids). This can be explained by the transport limitation due to evaporation of organics from bacteria-free droplets to the gas phase, followed by the dissolution into bacteria-containing droplets. For cloud condensation nuclei (CCN)-derived compounds, such as dicarboxylic acids, the upper limit of organic loss by biodegradation can be approximated by the amount of organics dissolved in the bacteria-containing droplets (<0.1 %). We compare results from our detailed drop-resolved model to simplified model approaches, in which (i) either all cloud droplets are assumed to contain the same cell concentration (0.0001–0.001 cell per droplet), or (ii) only droplets with intact bacterial cells are considered in the cloud (liquid water content ∼10−11 vol / vol). Conclusions based on these approaches generally overestimate the role of biodegradation, particularly for highly water-soluble organic gases. Our model sensitivity studies suggest that current atmospheric multiphase chemistry models are incomplete for organics with intermediate solubility and high bacterial activity.
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Contributor : Stéphanie Bonnefoy Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 3:31:32 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, June 26, 2022 - 3:08:46 AM
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Amina Khaled, Minghui Zhang, Pierre Amato, Anne-Marie Delort, Barbara Ervens. Biodegradation by bacteria in clouds: an underestimated sink for some organics in the atmospheric multiphase system. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, European Geosciences Union, 2021, 21 (4), pp.3123-3141. ⟨10.5194/acp-21-3123-2021⟩. ⟨hal-03160660⟩



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