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Quantification of small-scale heterogeneity in aquatic aminopeptidase activity

Brian M. Gaas*, James W. Ammerman

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Leucine aminopeptidase (LAP) is one of the enzymes involved in the hydrolysis of amino acids from organic matter, and is sometimes used to indicate potential nitrogen limitation in microbes. Small-scale variability has the potential to confound interpretation of underlying patterns in LAP activity in time or space. An automated flow-injection analysis instrument was used to address the small-scale variability of LAP activity within contiguous regions of the Hudson River plume (New Jersey, USA). LAP activity had a coefficient of variation (CV) of »0.5 with occasional values above 1.0. The mean CV for other biological parameters—chlorophyll fluorescence and nitrate concentration—were similar, and were much lower for salinity. LAP activity changed by an average of 35 nmol l-1 hr-1 when crossing salinity bin boundaries, and variations in LAP activity were higher crossing region boundaries than within a region. Differences in LAP activity were ±100 nmol l-1 hr-1 between samples spaced <10 m apart. Variogram analysis indicated an inherent spatial variability of 52 nmol l-1 hr-1 throughout the study area. Large changes in LAP activity were often associated with small changes in salinity and chlorophyll fluorescence, and were sensitive to the sampling frequency. This study concludes that LAP measurements in a sample could realistically be expected to range from zero to twice the average, and changes between areas or times should be at least two-fold to have some degree of confidence that apparent patterns (or lack thereof) in activity are real.