skip to main content


Title: An empirical model of carbon flow through marine viruses and microzooplankton grazers
Summary

Viruses and microzooplankton grazers represent major sources of mortality for marine phytoplankton and bacteria, redirecting the flow of organic material throughout the world's oceans. Here, we investigate the use of nonlinear population models of interactions between phytoplankton, viruses and grazers as a means to quantitatively constrain the flow of carbon through marine microbial ecosystems. We augment population models with a synthesis of laboratory‐based estimates of prey, predator and viral life history traits that constrain transfer efficiencies. We then apply the model framework to estimate loss rates in the California Current Ecosystem (CCE). With our empirically parameterized model, we estimate that, of the total losses mediated by viruses and microzooplankton grazing at the focal CCE site, 22 ± 3%, 46 ± 27%, 3 ± 2% and 29 ± 20% were directed to grazers, sloppy feeding (as well as excretion and respiration), viruses and viral lysate respectively. We identify opportunities to leverage ecosystem models and conventional mortality assays to further constrain the quantitative rates of critical ecosystem processes.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10457566
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Environmental Microbiology
Volume:
21
Issue:
6
ISSN:
1462-2912
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: p. 2171-2181
Size(s):
p. 2171-2181
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Transitions in phytoplankton community composition are typically attributed to ecological succession even in physically dynamic upwelling systems like the California Current Ecosystem (CCE). An expected succession from a high‐chlorophyll (~ 10μg L−1) diatom‐dominated assemblage to a low‐chlorophyll (< 1.0μg L−1) non‐diatom dominated assemblage was observed during a 2013 summer upwelling event in the CCE. Using an interdisciplinary field‐based space‐for‐time approach leveraging both biogeochemical rate measurements and metatranscriptomics, we suggest that this successional pattern was driven primarily by physical processes. An annually recurring mesoscale eddy‐like feature transported significant quantities of high‐phytoplankton‐biomass coastal water offshore. Chlorophyll was diluted during transport, but diatom contributions to phytoplankton biomass and activity (49–62% observed) did not decline to the extent predicted by dilution (18–24% predicted). Under the space‐for‐time assumption, these trends infer diatom biomass and activity and were stimulated during transport. This is hypothesized to result from decreased contact rates with mortality agents (e.g., viruses) and release from nutrient limitation (confirmed by rate data nearshore), as predicted by the Disturbance‐Recovery hypothesis of phytoplankton bloom formation. Thus, the end point taxonomic composition and activity of the phytoplankton assemblage being transported by the eddy‐like feature were driven by physical processes (mixing) affecting physiological (release from nutrient limitation, increased growth) and ecological (reduced mortality) factors that favored the persistence of the nearshore diatoms during transit. The observed connection between high‐diatom‐biomass coastal waters and non‐diatom‐dominated offshore waters supports the proposed mechanisms for this recurring eddy‐like feature moving seed populations of coastal phytoplankton offshore and thereby sustaining their activity.

     
    more » « less
  2. Phytoplankton growth and microzooplankton grazing rates were measured from incubation experiments using the dilution method in the framework of the Northeast U.S. Shelf Long-Term Ecological Research project. The data set includes plankton population dynamics rates obtained during 12 cruises from winter 2018 (EN608) to summer 2022 (EN687) along a north/south transect from Martha’s Vineyard to the shelf-break. Phytoplankton growth and microzooplankton grazing rates were measured for the total phytoplankton community (chl-a concentrations) and for size fractions (chl-a size fractionation) less than and greater than 10 µm. Phytoplankton growth and microzooplankton grazing rates, the first trophic interaction between primary producers and higher trophic levels, are essential parameters to assess the cycling and export of carbon in the ocean and to better understand marine food webs. 
    more » « less
  3. Chen, Peng (Ed.)

    Viral lysis of phytoplankton is one of the most common forms of death on Earth. Building on an assay used extensively to assess rates of phytoplankton loss to predation by grazers, lysis rates are increasingly quantified through dilution-based techniques. In this approach, dilution of viruses and hosts are expected to reduce infection rates and thus increase host net growth rates (i.e., accumulation rates). The difference between diluted and undiluted host growth rates is interpreted as a measurable proxy for the rate of viral lytic death. These assays are usually conducted in volumes ≥ 1 L. To increase throughput, we implemented a miniaturized, high-throughput, high-replication, flow cytometric microplate dilution assay to measure viral lysis in environmental samples sourced from a suburban pond and the North Atlantic Ocean. The most notable outcome we observed was a decline in phytoplankton densities that was exacerbated by dilution, instead of the increased growth rates expected from lowered virus-phytoplankton encounters. We sought to explain this counterintuitive outcome using theoretical, environmental, and experimental analyses. Our study shows that, while die-offs could be partly explained by a ‘plate effect’ due to small incubation volumes and cells adhering to walls, the declines in phytoplankton densities are not volume-dependent. Rather, they are driven by many density- and physiology-dependent effects of dilution on predation pressure, nutrient limitation, and growth, all of which violate the original assumptions of dilution assays. As these effects are volume-independent, these processes likely occur in all dilution assays that our analyses show to be remarkably sensitive to dilution-altered phytoplankton growth and insensitive to actual predation pressure. Incorporating altered growth as well as predation, we present a logical framework that categorizes locations by the relative dominance of these mechanisms, with general applicability to dilution-based assays.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Microbial mortality impacts the structure of food webs, carbon flow, and the interactions that create dynamic patterns of abundance across gradients in space and time in diverse ecosystems. In the oceans, estimates of microbial mortality by viruses, protists, and small zooplankton do not account fully for observations of loss, suggesting the existence of underappreciated mortality sources. We examined how ubiquitous mucous mesh feeders (i.e. gelatinous zooplankton) could contribute to microbial mortality in the open ocean. We coupled capture of live animals by blue‐water diving to sequence‐based approaches to measure the enrichment and selectivity of feeding by two coexisting mucous grazer taxa (pteropods and salps) on numerically dominant marine prokaryotes. We show that mucous mesh grazers consume a variety of marine prokaryotes and select between coexisting lineages and similar cell sizes. We show thatProchlorococcusmay evade filtration more than other cells and that planktonic archaea are consumed by macrozooplanktonic grazers. Discovery of these feeding relationships identifies a new source of mortality for Earth's dominant marine microbes and alters our understanding of how top‐down processes shape microbial community and function.

     
    more » « less
  5. Viral lysis of phytoplankton is one of the most common forms of death on Earth. Building on an assay used extensively to assess rates of phytoplankton loss to predation by grazers, lysis rates are increasingly quantified through dilution-based techniques. In this approach, dilution of viruses and hosts are expected to reduce infection rates and thus increase host net growth rates (i.e., accumulation rates). The difference between diluted and undiluted host growth rates is interpreted as a measurable proxy for the rate of viral lytic death. These assays are usually conducted in volumes 1 L. To increase throughput, we implemented a miniaturized, high-throughput, high-replication, flow cytometric microplate dilution assay to measure viral lysis in environmental samples sourced from a suburban pond and the North Atlantic Ocean. The most notable outcome we observed was a decline in phytoplankton densities that was exacerbated by dilution, instead of the increased growth rates expected from lowered virus-phytoplankton encounters. We sought to explain this counterintuitive outcome using theoretical, environmental, and experimental analyses. Our study shows that, while die-offs could be partly explained by a ‘plate effect’ due to small incubation volumes and cells adhering to walls, the declines in phytoplankton densities are not volume-dependent. Rather, they are driven by many density- and physiology-dependent effects of dilution on predation pressure, nutrient limitation, and growth, all of which violate the original assumptions of dilution assays. As these effects are volume-independent, these processes likely occur in all dilution assays that our analyses show to be remarkably sensitive to dilution-altered phytoplankton growth and insensitive to actual predation pressure. 
    more » « less