Virioplankton and bacterioplankton in a shallow CO2-dominated hydrothermal vent (Panarea Island, Tyrrhenian Sea)

Gas hydrothermal vents are used as a natural analogue for studying the effects of CO2 leakage from hypothetical shallow marine storage sites on benthic and pelagic systems. This study investigated the interrelationships between planktonic prokaryotes and viruses in the Panarea Islands hydrothermal system (southern Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy), especially their abundance, distribution and diversity. No difference in prokaryotic abundance was shown between high-CO2 and control sites. The community structure displayed differences between fumarolic field and the control, and between surface and bottom waters, the latter likely due to the presence of different water masses. Bacterial assemblages were qualitatively dominated by chemo- and photoautotrophic organisms, able to utilise both CO2 and H2S for their metabolic requirements. From significantly lower virioplankton abundance in the proximity of the exhalative area together with particularly low Virus-to-Prokaryotes Ratio, we inferred a reduced impact on prokaryotic abundance and proliferation. Even if the fate of viruses in this particular condition remains still unknown, we consider that lower viral abundance could reflect in enhancing the energy flow to higher trophic levels, thus largely influencing the overall functioning of the system.

Karuza A., Celussi M., Cibic T., Del Negro P., & DeVittor C., in press. Virioplankton and bacterioplankton in a shallow CO2-dominated hydrothermal vent (Panarea Island, Tyrrhenian Sea). Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2011.10.027. Article (subscription required).

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