Interannual dynamics of viriobenthos abundance and morphological diversity in Chesapeake Bay sediments

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Helton, R.R., K. Wang, J. Kan, D.H. Powell, and K.E. Wommack. 2012. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 79:474–486.

doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2011.01238.x


Despite significant implications of viral activity in sediment ecosystems, there are limited data describing how sediment viral assemblages respond to broader ecosystem changes. To document this, the spatial and temporal dynamics of viral and bacterial abundance (BA) and changes in the morphological distribution of viruses were examined within three salinity regions over 2 years. Viral abundances (VA) ranged from 0.2 to 17 × 1010 viruses mL−1 sediment while direct bacterial counts ranged from 3.8 to 37 × 108 cells mL−1 sediment. Peaks and valleys in the abundance of extracted viruses and bacteria from surface sediments occurred simultaneously, with lows in February 2004 and highs in April 2003. Across all samples, viral and BA were positively correlated (P < 0.001). Vertical profiles showed a decrease in viral and BA with depth in sediments. Based on transmission electron microscopy results, viruses with diminutive capsids (20–50 nm) and from the Myoviridae and Podoviridae viral family types were dominant within surface sediments. The most morphologically diverse viral assemblages occurred in autumn samples from the sandy, polyhaline station and spring samples from the mesohaline station. Seasonal changes showed an average 72% decrease in VA from spring to winter. These observations support the view that viriobenthos assemblages are responsive to seasonal environmental changes and that viral processes have significant implications for the biogeochemical processes mediated by bacterial communities within Bay sediments.