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Dispersal in microbes: fungi in indoor air are dominated by outdoor air and show dispersal limitation at short distances.


The indoor microbiome is a complex system that is thought to depend on dispersal from the outdoor biome and the occupants' microbiome combined with selective pressures imposed by the occupants' behaviors and the building itself. We set out to determine the pattern of fungal diversity and composition in indoor air on a local scale and to identify processes behind that pattern. We surveyed airborne fungal assemblages within 1-month time periods at two seasons, with high replication, indoors and outdoors, within and across standardized residences at a university housing facility. Fungal assemblages indoors were diverse and strongly determined by dispersal from outdoors, and no fungal taxa were found as indicators of indoor air. There was a seasonal effect on the fungi found in both indoor and outdoor air, and quantitatively more fungal biomass was detected outdoors than indoors. A strong signal of isolation by distance existed in both outdoor and indoor airborne fungal assemblages, despite the small geographic scale in which this study was undertaken (<500 m). Moreover, room and occupant behavior had no detectable effect on the fungi found in indoor air. These results show that at the local level, outdoor air fungi dominate the patterning of indoor air. More broadly, they provide additional support for the growing evidence that dispersal limitation, even on small geographic scales, is a key process in structuring the often-observed distance-decay biogeographic pattern in microbial communities.

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