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Soil Viruses: A New Hope


As abundant members of microbial communities, viruses impact microbial mortality, carbon and nutrient cycling, and food web dynamics. Although most of our information about viral communities comes from marine systems, evidence is mounting to suggest that viruses are similarly important in soil. Here I outline soil viral metagenomic approaches and the current state of soil viral ecology as a field, and then I highlight existing knowledge gaps that we can begin to fill. We are poised to elucidate soil viral contributions to terrestrial ecosystem processes, considering: the full suite of potential hosts across trophic scales, the ecological impacts of different viral replication strategies, links to economically relevant outcomes like crop productivity, and measurable in situ virus-host population dynamics across spatiotemporal scales and environmental conditions. Soon, we will learn how soil viruses contribute to food webs linked to organic matter decomposition, carbon and nutrient cycling, greenhouse gas emissions, and agricultural productivity.

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