Just like on dry land, seawaters are populated by bacteria. Some of them carry viruses, but many of them could promote carbon storage at the bottom of the oceans.
This astonishing discovery was made by American scientists at Ohio State University and reported in the journal Science† The researchers conducted an in-depth analysis of as many as 5,500 species that carry marine RNA viruses.
By closely observing their genes and their functions in the ocean ecosystem, the authors of the work found that these particles could contribute to the absorption of carbon from the atmosphere and its permanent storage at the bottom of the ocean.
According to the study, these viruses can: “on their way to more digestible carbon, allowing them to produce and sink larger and larger cells. So we will gain another few hundred or a thousand years to escape the worst effects of climate change.”says scientist Matthew Sullivan, who led the study.
The authors of the work have developed computational techniques to obtain information about the functions and hosts of RNA viruses from genomic fragments. Further analysis identified 1,243 RNA virus species associated with carbon export. Eleven of these are involved in promoting the export of carbon to the seafloor, two of which are viruses related to hosts of the algal family.
“The results are important for building models and predicting what will happen to carbon in the right direction and size.”
Ahmed Zayed, a microbiology researcher at Ohio State University and co-lead author of the study.
The study also points to a significant presence of marine RNA viruses in the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans. A phenomenon that the team of researchers had not foreseen, since biodiversity in tropical regions is generally denser and more varied than in polar regions. †When it comes to diversity, viruses don’t care about temperature”notes Professor Zayed.
These RNA viruses were detected in plankton samples collected by the “Tara Oceans Consortium”, an ongoing global study aimed at measuring the impact of climate change on the ocean.
(ETX Daily Up)