Coastal lagoons are highly variable and dynamic systems that have been rarely investigated in terms of benthic microbial loop. We present here the results of a comparative study aimed at investigating factors and benthic processes potentially affecting microbial loop functioning in three lagoon systems (Goro, Lesina and Marsala lagoons). The three lagoons were characterised by different geo-morphological, trophic and ecological features. We determined organic matter quantity and biochemical composition, exo-enzymatic activities, bacterial biomass and bacterial carbon production together with heterotrophic nanoflagellate and meiofauna biomass. These variables allowed providing estimates of biomass ratios between different benthic compartments and gathering information on C transfer in different systems. The results of this study indicate that organic matter composition played a primary role on microbial loop ability of channelling C-biomass to higher trophic levels. In coastal lagoons, indeed, quantity and quality of sediment organic matter control rates of organic matter degradation, turnover rates (through breakdown of large macromolecules) and utilisation by benthic heterotrophic organisms (bacterial C production). Exo-enzymatic activities in all lagoons investigated were generally low, when compared to coastal marine systems, and lowest rates were observed in systems characterised by refractory organic pools. Our results indicate that the autotrophic contribution to the biopolymeric carbon pools, which influences the ratio of autotrophic to heterotrophic biomass, is a key factor regulating the functional efficiency of the benthic system. The structure of the benthic microbial loop varied according to the different characteristics of the lagoons: from a classical "detritus sink" system (i.e., the Marsala lagoon, where organic matter was highly refractory), to the "source" system (Lesina lagoon, which displayed an efficient C transfer to higher trophic levels, mediated by benthic bacteria).
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|Titolo:||Benthic microbial loop functioning in coastal lagoons: a comparative approach|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2003|
|Tipologia:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|