To understand to what extent depositional dynamics and riverine input contribute to shape the microbial benthic community structure in coastal systems, surface sediments were collected along one nearshore and two land-sea transects in the Po River prodelta, and analyzed for lithology, sediment structures, grain-size, short-lived radioisotopes (Be-7 and Cs-137) and organic matter (OM) quantity and origin (C, N, stable isotopes). The most recent surface supply (i.e. 5-6 mo = SUP layer) and the underneath, older sub-surface deposits (i.e. > 6 mo = SUB layer) were analyzed at six selected sampling sites and checked for possible differences in the microbial community abundance and structure. According to different depositional dynamics, three distinct groups of sites were detected: nearshore muddy and sandy sites, and offshore sites. Sedimentary records reflected the interplay of different elements and/or processes acting in this complex and highly dynamic system. Riverderived sediments, as depicted by high contribution of silty particles and recent riverine OM inputs, were confined to nearshore locations in front of the main river mouth. They resulted highly correlated to bacterial distribution and prokaryotic abundances in SUP layer. Nevertheless, in subsurface sediments affected by the delivery of high amount of mud, potential burial phenomena and/or the development of anoxic conditions occurred, leading to a change in the bacterial community structure. We speculated that the decrease of Gammaand increase of Delta-Proteobacteria in the SUB layer could be related to their sulfur-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing activities, respectively. On the other hand, at offshore sites, the presence of a low, and regular sedimentary input and less intense hydrodynamic conditions favored a more stable microbial structure across surface and subsurface sediments. Four discriminating proxies, such as grain-size representing the system energy, Total N as an indicator of land-derived nutrient inputs,Be-7 as a tracer of the freshness of riverine discharge, and stable C isotope as an indicator of the type and age of OM, mainly summarize the complex relationships between sedimentary dynamics and bacterial community structure in the Po River prodelta area.
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