Send to

Choose Destination
ISME J. 2015 Jun;9(6):1352-64. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.220. Epub 2015 Jan 30.

A multitrophic model to quantify the effects of marine viruses on microbial food webs and ecosystem processes.

Author information

1] School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA [2] School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, NOAA, Princeton, NJ, USA.
Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.
Department of Applied Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Department of Geosciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA.
Marine Biological Section, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Mathematics, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA.
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Department of Botany, and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, ME, USA.
Delaware Biotechnology Institute, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA.


Viral lysis of microbial hosts releases organic matter that can then be assimilated by nontargeted microorganisms. Quantitative estimates of virus-mediated recycling of carbon in marine waters, first established in the late 1990s, were originally extrapolated from marine host and virus densities, host carbon content and inferred viral lysis rates. Yet, these estimates did not explicitly incorporate the cascade of complex feedbacks associated with virus-mediated lysis. To evaluate the role of viruses in shaping community structure and ecosystem functioning, we extend dynamic multitrophic ecosystem models to include a virus component, specifically parameterized for processes taking place in the ocean euphotic zone. Crucially, we are able to solve this model analytically, facilitating evaluation of model behavior under many alternative parameterizations. Analyses reveal that the addition of a virus component promotes the emergence of complex communities. In addition, biomass partitioning of the emergent multitrophic community is consistent with well-established empirical norms in the surface oceans. At steady state, ecosystem fluxes can be probed to characterize the effects that viruses have when compared with putative marine surface ecosystems without viruses. The model suggests that ecosystems with viruses will have (1) increased organic matter recycling, (2) reduced transfer to higher trophic levels and (3) increased net primary productivity. These model findings support hypotheses that viruses can have significant stimulatory effects across whole-ecosystem scales. We suggest that existing efforts to predict carbon and nutrient cycling without considering virus effects are likely to miss essential features of marine food webs that regulate global biogeochemical cycles.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center