Sediment resuspension induced by anthropogenic disturbance is becoming a major threat of marine coastal ecosystems worldwide. The effects of sediment resuspension on the pelagic domain and on macro- and meiobenthos are well documented in the literature, whereas the effects on the benthic microbial components are nearly neglected. We have investigated the effects of sediment resuspension at two different disturbance levels on benthic bacterial abundance, biomass, and activities and on heterotrophic nanobenthos abundance in experimental microcosms. The results of our experiments pointed out that, independently from the amount of involved energy, sediment resuspension determined a general decrease of all benthic microbial components. The main effects consisted of a decreased abundance of the metabolically active bacterial fraction and of heterotrophic nanobenthos abundance. However, the amount of energy involved in sediment resuspension had differential effects on the structure and functioning of the benthic microbial loop, but only in the short term (i.e., within 36 h). Sediment resuspension had a stimulatory effect on activities of surviving bacterial cells, which, in turn, resulted in increased sediment organic C turnover rates. We hypothesize that such an effect, enhancing nutrient availability, might have relevant consequences on the trophic state of coastal marine ecosystem.
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