Variations in the optical properties of a particle suspension associated with viral infection of marine bacteria

Uitz, Julia, Dariusz Stramski, Anne-Claire Baudoux, Rick A. Reynolds, Vanessa M. Wright, Jean Dubranna, and Farooq Azam

Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(6), 2010, 2317-2330 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.6.2317

ABSTRACT: A laboratory experiment was conducted to examine the temporal dynamics of the particle size distribution (PSD) and associated optical variability caused by viral infection of marine heterotrophic bacteria. The PSD covering a broad range of particle size from < 50 nm to 200 µm was measured in parallel with the spectral particulate absorption and beam attenuation coefficients, from which the particulate scattering coefficient, bp(l), was determined. Within 12 h following infection, the host bacterial population collapsed, viral abundance increased, and submicron particles were produced as bacteria were disrupted and cell debris released, resulting in a large decrease in bp(l) seen as an almost complete clearing of the particle suspension. Throughout the remainder of the experiment, significant changes in the PSD occurred primarily within the size range of relatively large particles (> 4 µm), likely as a result of the aggregation of smaller-sized particles originating from the host lysis. The PSD data were used as input for Mie scattering calculations to evaluate the effects of these particle dynamics in terms of relative contributions of different particle size classes to the scattering and backscattering coefficients. This analysis showed a significant increase in the effect of particle aggregation on light scattering during the second and third days after infection. Viral lysis of bacteria and subsequent particle dynamics produce large variations in the PSD over a broad size range on timescales from hours to a few days, and such processes lead to correspondingly large changes in the suspension optical properties.

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