Marine microorganisms constitute the largest percentage of living biomass and serve as the major driving force behind nutrient and energy cycles. While viruses only comprise a small percentage of this biomass (i.e., 5%), they dominate in numerical abundance and genetic diversity. Through host infection and mortality, viruses affect microbial population dynamics, community composition, genetic evolution, and biogeochemical cycling. However, the field of marine viral ecology is currently limited by a lack of data regarding how different environmental factors regulate virus dynamics and host-virus interactions. The goal of the present minireview was to contribute to the evolution of marine viral ecology, through the assimilation of available data regarding the manner and degree to which environmental factors affect viral decay and infectivity as well as influence latent period and production. Considering the ecological importance of viruses in the marine ecosystem and the increasing pressure from anthropogenic activity and global climate change on marine systems, a synthesis of existing information provides a timely framework for future research initiatives in viral ecology.
Keywords: heterotrophic prokaryotes; marine microorganisms; marine viruses; phytoplankton; virus-host interactions.
© 2014 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. All rights reserved.