, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 209-221

Viruses and the microbial loop

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The abundance of viral-like particles in marine ecosystems ranges from <104 ml−1 to >108 ml−1. Their distribution in time and space parallels that of other biological parameters such as bacterial abundance and chlorophyll a. There is a lack of consensus between methods used to assess viral activity, i.e., rate of change in viral abundance (increase or decrease). The highest rates, 10–100 days−1, are observed in experiments with short sampling intervals (0.2–2 h), while lower rates, on the order of 1 day−1, are observed in experiments with longer sampling intervals (days). Few studies have been carried out, but viruses appear, at least in some cases, to have a significant impact on carbon and nutrient flow in microbial food webs. Viruses have also been demonstrated to exert a species specific control of both bacteria and phytoplankton populations in natural waters.