The microscopic worlds of the Earth’s atmosphere | DW Documentary

It’s a fascinating voyage of discovery, into the microscopic worlds that populate the Earth’s atmosphere. A multitude of insects, seeds, pollen and bacteria – known as ‘air plankton’ — live in the layer of gases and water that protects our Earth.

We know that the wind blows animal and plant microorganisms of all kinds up from the earth and out of the water. After that, these ‘air plankton’ travel long distances on “air highways”. But what happens, exactly, once they reach the atmosphere? How are these processes influenced by human activity and the ecosystem of our planet?

The existence of airborne plankton was first suspected as early as the 19th century, with Charles Darwin and Louis Pasteur describing it in their works. But scientists only began studying the countless microorganisms in our Earth’s atmosphere a few years ago. Prior to that, scientists lacked the scientific tools needed to study these life forms. Now, thanks to satellite imagery and advances in microbiology, aerial plankton have become a focus of science.

The documentary follows researchers from the fields of aerobiology, chemistry, agronomy and climatology. They investigate the importance of these tiny creatures for global biodiversity. Countless tiny fellow travelers are attached to the dust particles that circulate in the Earth’s atmosphere. This poses the risk of airborne transmission of microbial diseases. In addition, scientists are expressing alarm at the disturbing changes in air quality: Desertification and deforestation are also negatively affecting life in the atmosphere. According to recent research, certain bacteria that live in clouds can even affect precipitation. Anyone who studies the tiny inhabitants of the skies will quickly realize their great importance for human life.

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