Effect of ice melting on bacterial carbon fluxes channelled by viruses and protists in the Arctic Ocean

Julia A. Boras, M. Montserrat Sala, Jesus M. Arrieta, Elisabet L. Sà, Jorge Felipe, Susana Agustí, Carlos M. Duarte, Dolors Vaqué

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


During the last few years, extensive sea ice melting in the Arctic due to climate change has been detected, which could potentially modify the organic carbon fluxes in these waters. In this study, the effect of sea ice melting on bacterial carbon channelling by phages and protists has been evaluated in the northern Greenland Sea and Arctic Ocean. Grazing on bacteria by protists was evaluated using the FLB disappearance method. Lysis of bacteria due to viral infections was measured using the virus reduction approach. Losses of bacterial production caused by protists (PMMBP) dominated losses caused by viruses (VMMBP) throughout the study. Lysogenic viral production was detected in 7 out of 21 measurements and constituted from 33.9 to 100.0% of the total viral production. Significantly higher PMMBP and lower VMMBP were detected in waters affected by ice melting compared with unaffected waters. Consequently, significantly more bacterial carbon was channelled to the higher trophic levels in affected waters (13.05 ± 5.98 μgC l-1 day-1) than in unaffected waters (8.91 ± 8.33 μgC l-1 day-1). Viruses channelled 2.63 ± 2.45 μgC l-1 day-1 in affected waters and 4.27 ± 5.54 μgC l-1 day-1 in unaffected waters. We conclude that sea ice melting in the Arctic could modify the carbon flow through the microbial food web. This process may be especially important in the case of massive sea ice melting due to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1695-1707
Number of pages13
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Arctic
  • Bacteria
  • Grazing
  • Viral infection
  • Viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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