Seasonal variation of extracellular enzymatic activity in marine snow-associated microbial communities and their impact on the surrounding water

Ingrid Ivancic, Paolo Paliaga, Martin Pfannkuchen, Tamara Djakovac, Mirjana Najdek, Paul Steiner, Marino Korlevic, Marsej Markovski, Ana Baricevic, Mirta Smodlaka Tankovic, Gerhard J Herndl

Seasonal changes of microbial abundance and associated extracellular enzymatic activity in marine snow and in seawater were studied in the northern Adriatic during a three year period. Marine snow was present during the entire investigated period, although with higher concentrations during summer than during winter. Microorganisms densely colonized marine snow and aggregate-associated enzymatic activity was substantially higher (up to 105 times) than in seawater. Alkaline phosphatase activity (APA) and aminopeptidase activity in marine snow showed seasonal variation with higher activities in late spring-summer than in autumn-winter, probably in response to changes in the quantity and quality of organic matter. The highest cell-specific bacterial activity was found for phosphatase, followed by peptidase, and the lowest for glucosidases. Differential hydrolysis of marine snow-derived organic matter points to the well-known P-limitation of the northern Adriatic and indicates preferential utilization of phosphorus- and nitrogen-rich organic compounds by microbes, while hydrolysis of polysaccharides seemed to be less important. In oligotrophic conditions during summer, organic matter released from marine snow might represent a significant source of substrate for free-living bacteria in seawater. For the first time microorganisms producing APA in marine snow were identified revealing that dense populations of bacteria expressed APA, while cyanobacteria did not. Cyanobacteria proliferating in marine snow could benefit from phosphorus release by bacteria and nanoflagellates.

Functional and Evolutionary Ecology
External organisation(s)
Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Institute Ruder Boskovic (RBI)
FEMS microbiology ecology
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
Marine biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
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