Plants and phyllosphere microorganisms may effectively contribute to reducing air pollution in cities through the adsorption and biodegradation of pollutants onto leaves. In this work, during all seasons, we sampled atmospheric particulate matter (PM10) and leaves of southern magnolia Magnolia grandiflora and deodar cedar Cedrus deodara, two evergreen plant species widespread in the urban area of Milan where the study was carried out. We then quantified Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) both in PM10 and on leaves and used sequencing of 16S rRNA gene, shotgun metagenomics and qPCR analyses to investigate the microbial communities hosted by the sampled leaves. Taxonomic and functional profiles of epiphytic bacterial communities differed between host plant species and seasons and the microbial communities on leaves harboured genes involved in the degradation of hydrocarbons. Evidence collected in this work also suggested that the abundance of hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms on evergreen leaves increased with the concentration of hydrocarbons when atmospheric pollutants were deposited at high concentration on leaves, and that the biodegradation on the phyllosphere can contribute to the removal of PAHs from the urban air.
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