Virio- and bacterioplankton microscale distributions at the sediment-water interface
Dann, Lisa M
Mitchell, James Gordon
Speck, Peter Gerald
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The marine sediment-water interface is an important location for microbially controlled nutrient and gas exchange processes. While microbial distributions on the sediment side of the interface are well established in many locations, the distributions of microbes on the water side of the interface are less well known. Here, we measured that distribution for marine virio- and bacterioplankton with a new two-dimensional technique. Our results revealed higher heterogeneity in sediment-water interface biomass distributions than previously reported with a greater than 45– and 2500-fold change cm−1 found within bacterial and viral subpopulations compared to previous maxima of 1.5- and 1.4-fold cm−1 in bacteria and viruses in the same environments. The 45-fold and 2500-fold changes were due to patches of elevated and patches of reduced viral and bacterial abundance. The bacterial and viral hotspots were found over single and multiple sample points and the two groups often coincided whilst the coldspots only occurred over single sample points and the bacterial and viral abundances showed no correlation. The total mean abundances of viruses strongly correlated with bacteria (r = 0.90, p<0.0001, n = 12) for all three microplates (n = 1350). Spatial autocorrelation analysis via Moran’s I and Geary’s C revealed non-random distributions in bacterial subpopulations and random distributions in viral subpopulations. The variable distributions of viral and bacterial abundance over centimetre-scale distances suggest that competition and the likelihood of viral infection are higher in the small volumes important for individual cell encounters than bulk measurements indicate. We conclude that large scale measurements are not an accurate measurement of the conditions under which microbial dynamics exist. The high variability we report indicates that few microbes experience the ‘average’ concentrations that are frequently measured.