Résumé: The importance of heterotrophic bacteria relative to phytoplankton in the uptake of ammonium and nitrate was studied in Mediterranean coastal waters (Thau Lagoon) during autumn, when the Mediterranean Sea received the greatest allochthonous nutrient loads. Specific inhibitors and size-fractionation methods were used in combination with isotopic 15N tracers. NO3 − and NH4 + uptake was dominated by phytoplankton (60 % on average) during the study period, which included a flood event. Despite lower biomass specific NH4 + and NO3 uptake rates, free-living heterotrophic bacteria contributed significantly (>30 %) to total microbial NH4 + and NO3 − uptake rates in low chlorophyll waters. Under these conditions, heterotrophic bacteria may be responsible for more than 50 % of primary production, using very little freshly produced phytoplankton exudates. In low chlorophyll coastal waters as reported during the present 3-month study, the heterotrophic bacteria seemed to depend to a greater extent on allochthonous N and C substrates than on autochthonous substrates derived from phytoplankton.