Between 18 March and 27 October 2002, 220 air samples were collected on 209 of 224 calendar days, on top of a coastal atmospheric research tower in Erdemli, Turkey. The volume of air filtered for each sample was 340 liters. Two hundred fifty-seven bacterial and 2598 fungal colony forming units (CFU) were enumerated from the samples using a low-nutrient agar. Ground-based dust measurements demonstrated that the region is routinely impacted by dust generated regionally and from North Africa and that the highest combined percent recovery of total CFU and African dust deposition occurred in the month of April (93.4% of CFU recovery and 91.1% of dust deposition occurred during African dust days versus no African dust present, for that month). A statistically significant correlation was observed (peak regional African dust months of March, April and May; r(s) = 0.576, P = 0.000) between an increase in the prevalence of microorganisms recovered from atmospheric samples on dust days (regional and African as determined by ground-based dust measurements), versus that observed on non-dust days. Given the prevalence of atmospherically suspended desert dust and microorganisms observed in this study, and that culture-based studies typically only recover a small fraction (< 1.0%) of the actual microbial population in any given environment, dust-borne microorganisms and other associated constituents (organic detritus, toxins, etc.) may play a significant role in the regional human and ecosystem health. Published by Elsevier Ltd.