Diel, seasonal, and depth-related variability of viruses and dissolved DNA in the northern Adriatic Sea
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The depth-dependent, seasonal, and diel variability of virus numbers, dissolved DNA (D-DNA), and other microbial parameters was investigated in the northern Adriatic Sea. During periods of water stratification, we found higher virus abundances and virus/bacterium ratios (VBRs) as well as a larger variability of D-DNA concentrations at the thermocline, probably as a result of higher microbial biomass. At the two investigated stations, virus densities were highest in summer and autumn (up to 9.5 × 1010 1−1) and lowest in winter (< 109 1−1); D-DNA concentrations were highest in summer and lowest in winter. The VBR as well as an estimated proportion of viral DNA on total D-DNA showed a strong seasonal variability. VBR averaged 15.0 (range, 0.9–89.1), and the percentage of viral DNA in total D-DNA averaged 18.3% (range, 0.1–96.1%). An estimation of the percentage of bacteria lysed by viruses, based on 2-h sample intervals in situ, ranged from 39.6 to 212.2% d−1 in 5 m and from 19.9 to 157.2% d−1 in 22 m. The estimated contribution of virus-mediated bacterial DNA release to the D-DNA pool ranged from 32.9 to 161% d−1 in 5 m and from 10.3 to 74.2% d−1 in 22 m. Multiple regression analysis and the diel dynamics of microbial parameters indicate that viral lysis occasionally could be more important in regulating bacterial abundances than grazing by heterotrophic nanoflagellates.
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