Biofilms are the dominant form of microbial life in stream ecosystems where they regulate critical processes and even contribute to large-scale biogeochemical fluxes. The biodiversity in these biofilms is massive and spans over all three domains of life. While viruses are now recognized as a major control on prokaryotic diversity and related biogeochemical processes in the oceans and lakes, we do currently not understand their role for stream microbial ecology and specifically for the structure and function of stream biofilms. The major goals of this SNF project are as follows: We will establish a first inventory of viral diversity in Alpine streams. We will also explore the coupling between viral and prokaryotic diversity patterns across the stream continuum. Finally, we will attempt to gain understanding on host range, host specificity, and on the protective properties of biofilms as potential mechanisms underlying viral and prokaryotic diversity patterns. To this end, we combine fieldwork with laboratory-scale experiments and will pair technologies from molecular biology and imaging to unveil the potential impacts of viruses on stream biofilm structure and function. Our attempt may thus fill a major gap in stream microbial ecology.

PI: Tom J. Battin; coPI: Hannes Peter; Postdoc: Meriem Berkliz

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