Microscale patchiness of virioplankton

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 2006, 86 (3), pp. 551 - 561
Issue Date:
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The microscale spatial distributions of viruses were investigated in three contrasting environments including oligotrophic open ocean, eutrophic coastal and estuarine habitats. The abundances of two discrete populations of both viruses and heterotrophic bacteria were measured at spatial resolutions of between 1 and 5 cm using purpose-designed microscale sampling equipment and flow cytometric sample analysis. Within open water samples, virus distributions were characterized by non-normal distributions and by 'hotspots' in abundance where concentrations varied by up to 17-fold. In contrast to patterns generally observed at larger spatiotemporal scales, there was no correlation between bacterial and viral abundance or correspondence between bacteria and virus hotspots within these samples. Consequently, strong hotspots and gradients in the virus:bacteria ratio (VBR) were also apparent within samples. Within vertical profiles taken from above the sediment-water interface within a temperate mangrove estuary, distributions of planktonic viruses were characterized by gradients in abundance, with highest concentrations observed within the 1-2 cm immediately above the sediment surface, and virus distributions were correlated to bacterial abundance (P<0.01). The patterns observed in these contrasting habitats indicate that microscale patchiness of virus abundance may be a common feature of the marine environment. This form of heterogeneity may have important implications for virus-host dynamics and subsequently influence microbial trophodynamics and nutrient cycling in the ocean.
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