The effects of anthropogenic pressures in coastal areas are extensively studied in temperate but not in tropical zones, where their impact might be amplified by high water temperatures and upwelling phenomena. Sedimentary features and benthic metabolism were studied during the non upwelling (NUPW) and upwelling (UPW) seasons in Taganga Bay (Colombia). The bay is impacted by a submarine outfall of virtually untreated, organic and nutrient-rich wastewater. Samplings were performed in November 2017 (NUPW) and in January–February 2018 (UPW) at 4 stations located in the proximity and 100, 750 and 1800 m far from the outfall, respectively, at depths between 22 and 28 m. Aerobic respiration, denitrification, dissimilative nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) and nutrient fluxes were measured. The influence of the outfall was detectable 750 and 1800 m away from the point pollution source, where δ13C data suggested that ~ 40 and ~ 20% of organic inputs were terrigenous, respectively. In the proximity of the outfall benthic oxygen demand peaked and the presence of Beggiatoa mats suggested reoxidation of sulphides, that were abundant in pore water. Under sulfidic conditions, DNRA was the major driver of nitrate demand, whereas at stations far from the outfall, denitrification dominated nitrate consumption. Organic matter and nitrate inputs to the bay during the UPW season enhanced the effects of the outfall by increasing aerobic respiration and DNRA. Higher N availability during the UPW season reversed fluxes of molecular nitrogen and turned the sediments of 3 out of 4 sites from net sinks to net N2 sources. Results from this study suggest that the analysis of sediments allows tracing the impact of the outfall and that such impact is enhanced during the upwelling season. In tropical areas, marine outfalls and upwelling may act in synergy and contribute to ecosystem deterioration due to high temperatures, increase of microbial respiration, sulphide toxicity and benthic biodiversity loss.
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