The prokaryotic community, both in terms of abundance and activity (exoenzymatic hydrolysis of proteins, polysaccharides and phosphorylated molecules and leucine uptake), was investigated seasonally for a 3-year period (2004–2006) in the Gulf of Venice (northern Adriatic Sea). By focusing on spatial and temporal variability, the prokaryote dynamics showed significant variations on a horizontal and seasonal scale, but no substantial differences were observed among years. The basin-scale variability was mainly influenced by allochthonous inputs from the Po river and the Venice Lagoon, which were the main source of nutrients, acting as a ‘bottom up’ control on prokaryotes. On a seasonal scale, all the microbial parameters (except the polysaccharide degradation) showed significant variations following the temperature fluctuations. The annual rate of change was very low for all the chemical, physical and biological parameters and only the abundance and phosphatase activity of the prokaryotes differed significantly among years.
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