Dynamics of auto- and heterotrophic picoplankton and associated viruses in Lake Geneva
Abstract. Microbial dynamics have rarely been investigated in Lake Geneva, known as the largest lake in western Europe. From a 5-month survey, we report dynamic patterns of free-living virus, bacteria and small phytoplankton abundances in response to a variety of environmental parameters. For the first time, we fractionated the primary production to separate the contribution of different size-related biological compartments and measured both bacterial and viral production in addition to experiments conducted to quantify the virus-induced bacterial mortality. We observed marked seasonal and vertical variations in picocyanobacteria, bacteria and virus abundances and production. The contribution of picoplankton and nanoplankton production to the total primary production was high (reaching up to 76% of total primary production) in November and the spring–summer transition period, respectively. The impact of viral lysis on both bacteria and picocyanobacteria was significantly higher than grazing activities. Virus-induced picocyanobacterial mortality reached up to 66% of cell removal compared to virus induced (heterotrophic) bacterial mortality, which reached a maximum of 34% in July. Statistical analyzes revealed that temperature and top-down control by viruses are among important factors regulating the picocyanobacterial dynamics in this lake. More generally speaking, our results add to the growing evidence and accepted view nowadays that viruses are an important actor of freshwater microbial dynamics and more globally of the functioning of the microbial food webs.