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Viruses can modify the carbon cycle in a warming world

They are all around us. viruses. And besides the health risks they pose to us, they can also have an impact on the carbon cycle. The effect is of critical importance to be evaluated in the context of global warming.

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Viruses are all around us. They are the subject of many scientific works. Until recently, Duke University researchers (USA), in particular, has raised the issue of the effect of global warming on viruses. Not evaluating potential new health risks that we could face. But it’s nice to get a more accurate idea of ​​how, in the future, viruses might play in the carbon cycle.

So the researchers focused on viruses capable of infecting microorganisms. Because it occupies a special place in the heart of ecosystems. They can capture and store carbon through the process of photosynthesis. They can recycle some of them when they take part in decomposition. Or they release carbon when they breathe. There are many processes that can be severely affected by a viral infection.

New sources of carbon, but also new sinks

So it seems important to know how the viruses themselves will be affected by global warming. Because the response of ecosystems to these changes cannot be properly predicted if we ignore the effects of, for example, increasing temperatures on virus host dynamics. This is the researchers’ first observation.

Thus the initial models developed by the researchers show that viruses could be able to upset the balance of the natural carbon cycle, and trigger unpredictable responses to global warming. Thus some ecosystems can become carbon sources, releasing more carbon than they store. But others can become, on the contrary, effective carbon sinks.

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