• Microbial activities;
  • C/N;
  • carbon cycle;
  • particulate organic carbon (POC);
  • transitional ecosystem


In the framework of the VECTOR DIVCOST Project, a 2-year investigation was started in 2006, with the aim of testing the sensibility of microbial parameters to environmental changes and of assessing whether they can provide information about functional changes in the carbon cycle. The investigation was performed in the surface waters of two small brackish ponds (Ganzirri and Faro), located in the Cape Peloro transitional area (Sicily, Italy). The seasonal changes in both the microbial compartment [bacterioplankton, vibrios, exoenzymatic hydrolysis of proteins and polysaccharides, bacterial secondary production (HBP) and community respiration] and the trophic state of suspended matter [total suspended matter (TSM), particulate organic carbon (POC), particulate organic nitrogen (PON), C/N] were analysed in relation to the hydrological characteristics [temperature, salinity, oxygen, fluorescence, NH4, NO2, NO3, PO4]. Despite marked differences in the nutritional input and the diversification in both carbon budget and trophic level, the two ponds show similar trends in many of the investigated factors, hardly influenced by seasonal variations. Temporally coupled trends were observed for some parameters (enzyme activities, vibrios abundances, respiratory activity), whereas others (POC, PON, heterotrophic bacterial production, bacterioplankton) showed a seasonal shift between the two lakes. The different behaviour found for the some biotic parameters suggests that their response to environmental conditions may be modulated differently between the two lakes, which, despite their spatial proximity and reciprocal connection, do not always show contemporaneous functional processes.