The response of the virus community to a mesoscale iron fertilization in the sub-Arctic Pacific Ocean

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Although the important role of viruses in marine biogeochemical cycles has been established in recent years, virus activity (including changes in this activity) has been largely ignored during mesoscale iron (Fe)-fertilization experiments relative to other processes. This is of particular interest as viruses have been shown to be critical to the transformation of Fe from the particulate (i.e., biological) to the dissolved pools. The goal of the present study was to evaluate changes in the virus-mediated lysis of heterotrophic bacterial cells following a shift in ecosystem trophic status brought about by a mesoscale Fe addition in the subarctic Pacific Ocean. Virus production rates, estimated by a reduction and reoccurrence assay, were coupled with transmission electron microscopy estimates of burst size and direct counts of virus and bacterial abundance. Fe fertilization of the upper mixed layer resulted in significant yet weak increases in virus production rates during the 12 days of observation immediately after fertilization, although the burst size (viruses produced per lytic event) and the percentage of visibly infected cells remained constant. The results imply that increases in virus production rates were most likely tied to a decreased lytic cycle length or the stimulation of lysogenized cells following the stimulation of primary and secondary productivity by the addition of Fe. The results also indicate that virus-induced cell-lysis regenerated an estimated nearly 200 pmol L−1 Fe daily, providing a significant return of Fe back to the water column, which may be critical in the maintenance of this added Fe as resident.

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