The ecological drivers that concurrently act upon both a virus and its host and that drive community assembly are poorly understood despite known interactions between viral populations and their microbial hosts. Hydraulically fractured shale environments provide access to a closed ecosystem in the deep subsurface where constrained microbial and viral community assembly processes can be examined. Here, we used metagenomic analyses of time-resolved-produced fluid samples from two wells in the Appalachian Basin to track viral and host dynamics and to investigate community assembly processes. Hypersaline conditions within these ecosystems should drive microbial community structure to a similar configuration through time in response to common osmotic stress. However, viral predation appears to counterbalance this potentially strong homogeneous selection and pushes the microbial community toward undominated assembly. In comparison, while the viral community was also influenced by substantial undominated processes, it assembled, in part, due to homogeneous selection. When the overall assembly processes acting upon both these communities were directly compared with each other, a significant relationship was revealed, suggesting an association between microbial and viral community development despite differing selective pressures. These results reveal a potentially important balance of ecological dynamics that must be in maintained within this deep subsurface ecosystem in order for the microbial community to persist over extended time periods. More broadly, this relationship begins to provide knowledge underlying metacommunity development across trophic levels.
IMPORTANCE Interactions between viral communities and their microbial hosts have been the subject of many recent studies in a wide range of ecosystems. The degree of coordination between ecological assembly processes influencing viral and microbial communities, however, has been explored to a much lesser degree. By using a combined null modeling approach, this study investigated the ecological assembly processes influencing both viral and microbial community structure within hydraulically fractured shale environments. Among other results, significant relationships between the structuring processes affecting both the viral and microbial community were observed, indicating that ecological assembly might be coordinated between these communities despite differing selective pressures. Within this deep subsurface ecosystem, these results reveal a potentially important balance of ecological dynamics that must be maintained to enable long-term microbial community persistence. More broadly, this relationship begins to provide insight into the development of communities across trophic levels.