Viruses might tame some algal blooms

algal blooms seen from satellite

Satellite images can explain the intimate life details of algal blooms, including their demise by viruses. Blooms appear as bright blue and green swirls in this image.

Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

Guest post by Nsikan Akpan

The rapid demise of a giant, carbon-spewing algal bloom points to the influence of viral wranglers, scientists report August 21 in Current Biology. Over 25 days in the summer of 2012, the team tracked a giant mass of Emiliana huxleyi phytoplankton off the coast of Greenland with a satellite. Emitting 24,000 tons of carbon at its peak, the bloom was well nourished during its lifespan. Then, the mass suddenly died within eight days. Measurements taken immediately after the die-off revealed an abundance of algae-attacking viruses, suggesting that viruses may determine the fate of phytoplankton blooms and their carbon emissions. 

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