Biomass and respiration rates of bacteria, nematodes and macrobenthos were estimated in relation to the deposition of the spring phytoplankton bloom at two contrasting sites in the Southern North Sea: one with fine-grained sediment close to the coastline and another with highly permeable sediments. Sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC) was also measured. Bacterial biomass was relatively similar at both stations, whereas nematode and macrobenthic biomass were higher in fine-grained sediment. In fine sediments, bacterial biomass increased quickly after deposition of the phytoplankton bloom, whereas the response of nematodes and macrobenthos was delayed. In coarser sediments, nematodes and macrobenthos also showed a fast response in terms of density and biomass. Respiration in permeable sediments was mainly dominated by bacteria at all periods of the year. Hence, nematode and macrobenthic respiration did not contribute strongly to SCOC. This is in contrast to the patterns observed in finer sediments, where both macrofauna and nematodes were important oxygen consumers as well. Macrobenthos contributed more to total SCOC than did nematodes in winter. However, shortly after the arrival of phytodetritus at the sea floor, nematodes and macrobenthos contributed equally to the total SCOC, indicating that all benthic size classes should be taken into account when investigating marine benthic respiration rates.