Influence of Algal Biomass on Extracellular Enzyme Activity in River Biofilms
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Relationships between biofilm structural components (algal and bacterial biomass) and the activities of some extracellular enzymes that contribute to the ability to degrade organic matter) were explored for six Atlantic and three Mediterranean streams and rivers. The biofilms in these fluvial systems accounted for a wide range of bacterial and algal biomass and colonized the most common benthic habitats. Ratio of bacteria/algae biomass was lower in Atlantic than in Mediterranean streams, but enzymatic activities (β-glucosidase, β-xylosidase, phosphatase) were in general greater in the Mediterranean stream biofilms. Climatic characteristics (especially temperature) may explain the differences in enzymatic activities between biofilms of similar structure but different flow regime. The ratio β-xylosidase: β-glucosidase was similar (around 0.5) for all streams and substrata considered, showing that there is a general higher utilization of cellobiosic than xylobiosic molecules in fluvial systems. In general, highly heterotrophic biofilms showed lower extracellular enzymatic activities than more autotrophic biofilms. Maximum enzymatic activity is achieved when the algal biomass is two- to threefold higher than the bacterial biomass. The relevance of algal biomass on the heterotrophic ability of biofilms may be related to the physical proximity between the two, but also to the high proportion of polymeric carbohydrates included in algal exudates and lysis products, whose use is enzyme-mediated.
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