Ocean acidification induces changes in virus–host relationships in Mediterranean benthic ecosystems

Acidified marine systems represent “natural laboratories”, which provide opportunities to investigate the impacts of ocean acidification on different living components, including microbes. Here, we compared the benthic microbial response in four naturally acidified sites within the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea characterized by different acidification sources (i.e., CO2 emissions at Ischia, mixed gases at Panarea and Basiluzzo and acidified freshwater from karst rocks at Presidiana) and pH values. We investigated prokaryotic abundance, activity and biodiversity, viral abundance and prokaryotic infections, along with the biochemical composition of the sediment organic matter. We found that, despite differences in local environmental dynamics, viral life strategies change in acidified conditions from mainly lytic to temperate lifestyles (e.g., chronic infection), also resulting in a lowered impact on prokaryotic communities, which shift towards (chemo)autotrophic assemblages, with lower organic matter consumption. Taken together, these results suggest that ocean acidification exerts a deep control on microbial benthic assemblages, with important feedbacks on ecosystem functioning.

Tangherlini M., Corinaldesi C., Ape F., Greco S., Romeo T., Andaloro F. & Danovaro R., 2021. Ocean acidification induces changes in virus–host relationships in Mediterranean benthic ecosystems. Microorganisms 9(4): 769. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9040769. Article.

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