Are viruses important in the plankton of highly turbid glacier-fed lakes?
Viruses are ubiquitous in aquatic ecosystems where they significantly contribute to microbial mortality. In glacier-fed turbid lakes, however, viruses not only encounter low host abundances, but also a high number of suspended mineral particles introduced by glacier meltwaters. We hypothesized that these particles potentially lead to unspecific adsorption and removal of free virus from the plankton, and thus significantly reduce their abundance in this type of lake. We followed the distribution of free virus-like particles (VLP) during the ice-free season across a turbidity gradient in four alpine lakes including one adjacent clear system where hydrological connectivity to the receding glacier is already lost. In the glacier-fed turbid lakes, VLP abundance increased with distance to the glacier, but the highest numbers were observed in the clear lake by the end of August, coinciding with the maximum in prokaryotic abundance. Our results suggest that viral loss by attachment to particles is less important than expected. Nevertheless, the relatively lower variability in VLP abundance and the lower virus-to-prokaryote ratio found in the turbid lakes than in the clear one point to a rather low temporal turnover and thus, to a reduced impact on microbial communities.