River inputs influence trophodynamic and biogeochemical processes of adjacent continental shelves. In order to provide new insights on the influence of continental inputs on the benthic trophic state and early diagenesis of sediment organic matter we collected surface sediments in the NW Adriatic Sea at three stations located at increasing distance from the Po River. Sediment samples were collected in four periods characterized by different river outflows and analysed for chloropigment content (chlorophyll-a and phaeopygments), protein, carbohydrate and lipid concentrations, prokaryote abundance and aminopeptidase activity. Sediments of the NW Adriatic Sea displayed high organic loads, tightly coupled with the outflow dynamics of the Po River. A major flooding event was responsible of an enhanced accumulation of organic material on the sea bottom. The resulting increased nutrient load in the sediment impaired organic matter degradation processes. The results of the present study suggest that the enhanced trophic state of marine coastal sediments subjected to riverine inputs are related not only to the increased nutrient inputs, but that they may be amplified by impaired degradation processes.
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