Intertidal photosynthetic microbial mats from the Wadden Sea island Schiermonnikoog were examined for microscale (millimetre) spatial distributions of viruses, prokaryotes and oxygenic photoautotrophs (filamentous cyanobacteria and benthic diatoms) at different times of the year. Abundances of viruses and prokaryotes were among the highest found in benthic systems (0.05–5.43 × 1010 viruses g−1 and 0.05–2.14 × 1010 prokaryotes g−1). The spatial distribution of viruses, prokaryotes and oxygenic photoautotrophs were highly heterogeneous at mm scales. The vertical distributions of both prokaryotic and viral abundances were related to the depth of the oxygenic photoautotrophic layer, implying that the photosynthetic mat fuelled the microbial processes in the underlying layer. Our data suggest that viruses could make an important component in these productive environments potentially affecting the biodiversity and nutrient cycling within the mat.
- Oxygenic photoautotrophs
- Photosynthetic microbial mats
- Spatial distribution