AME 69:183-192 (2013)  -  DOI:

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

Cátia Carreira1,2, Morten Larsen3,4,5, Ronnie N. Glud3,4,5,6, Corina P. D. Brussaard2, Mathias Middelboe1,*

1Section for Marine Biology, University of Copenhagen, Strandpromenaden 5, 3000 Helsingør, Denmark
2Department of Biological Oceanography, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 50, NL 1790, AB Den Burg, The Netherlands
3Scottish Marine Institute, Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban PA37 1QA, UK
4Institute of Biology and Nordic Center for Earth Evolution (NordCEE), University of Southern Denmark, 5320 Odense M, Denmark
5Greenland Climate Research Centre (CO Greenland Institute of National resources), Kivioq 2, Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
6Arctic Research Center, University of Aarhus, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: In this study we show for the first time the microscale (mm) 2- and 3-dimensional spatial distribution and abundance of prokaryotes, viruses, and oxygen in a tidal sediment. Prokaryotes and viruses were highly heterogeneously distributed with patches of elevated abundances surrounded by areas of ca. 3-fold lower abundance within distances of <2 mm. Abundances of prokaryotes and viruses ranged from 1.3 × 109 to 4.2 × 109 cells cm-3 and 4.1 × 109 to 13.1 × 109 viruses cm-3, respectively. The results showed oxygen concentration and uptake rates to be heterogeneously distributed at the same spatial scale, with the oxygen penetration depth varying from 1.5 to 5.8 mm and with an average (±SD) diffusive oxygen uptake of 18.9 ± 6.4 mmol m-2 d-1. Locally, prokaryotes, viruses, and oxygen were found to be positively, negatively, or not correlated, but overall no significant relationship was detected. The lack of consistent spatial correlation between viruses and prokaryotes was explained by a temporal experiment using organic carbon-enriched homogenized sediment samples. Enhancement in metabolic activity and the proliferation of prokaryotes and viruses were not completely phased. These results suggest that local nourishment 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.

KEY WORDS: Spatial heterogeneity · Temporal dynamic · Hot spots · Virus–host interactions

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Cite this article as: Carreira C, Larsen M, Glud RN, Brussaard CPD, Middelboe M (2013) Heterogeneous distribution of prokaryotes and viruses at the microscale in a tidal sediment. Aquat Microb Ecol 69:183-192.

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