AME - Vol. 69 No. 3 - Feature article

Oxygen distribution across the sediment–water interphase. Oxygen saturation varies from 0% (black) to 100% (red). Inset: temporal dynamics in prokaryote and viral abundance in response to organic carbon enrichment.(Image: Morten Larsen).

Carreira C, Larsen M, Glud RN, Brussaard CPD, Middelboe M

 

Heterogeneous distribution of prokaryotes and viruses at the microscale in a tidal sediment

 

Viruses are the most abundant biological structures in marine sediments, reaching >109 units ml-1, yet still very little is known about their role and dynamics in benthic environments. We show for the first time that viruses, prokaryotes and oxygen concentration are highly heterogeneously distributed at the millimeter scale in a tidal sediment, with microzones of elevated abundances (hot spots) extending a few mm in vertical and horizontal directions. These results suggest that the creation of local microniches induced by sedimentation and fauna activity is likely to be an important driver of a high small-scale heterogeneity in abundance and dynamics of benthic viruses and prokaryotes. This is expected to influence the rates and regulation of benthic virus–host interactions and thus microbial biogeochemical cycling.

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