The potential of viruses to influence the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions in an inland wetland

Journal: Water Research

Published: 2021-01-27

DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.116875

Affiliations: 2

Authors: 4

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Research Highlight

Wetland management goes viral

© Greg Newington/Stockbyte/Getty Images

© Greg Newington/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The carbon-capturing capacity of wetlands may be affected considerably by viral infections of bacteria.

Around a third of soil carbon is stored in freshwater wetlands, largely managed by the multitude of microbes that thrive there. However, the role that viruses play in the carbon cycle is unclear.

Now, three researchers from Deakin University in Australia and a collaborator have measured greenhouse-gas emissions and microbial community composition of a dried-up wetland in the Murray River basin before, during, and after a three-day irrigation.

Rewetting boosted bacterial diversity and the number of bacteria killed by viral infections fell by 77%, as viruses switched to an infection mode that didn’t destroy their hosts.

Overall carbon emission from the wetland fell by nearly two thirds, despite a rise in methane-producing microbes that could thrive in the oxygen-starved waters.

The researchers consider that their findings confirm that wetland restoration could be an effective way to offset greenhouse-gas emissions.

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  1. Water Research 193, 116875 (2021). doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.116875
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Deakin University, Australia 1