Benthic fluxes of nutrients and metals were measured in the coastal zone of the north-western Black Sea, which is influenced by the Danube and Dniestr rivers. The results from the benthic flux chambers deployed during two EROS 21 cruises in summer 1995 and in spring 1997 yield information on benthic nutrient cycling and diagenetic pathways at the sediment-water interface. This information is discussed in the light of benthic activity as well as pore-water data. The benthic recycling of nutrients varied seasonally due to the availability of oxygen and organic material, and spatially due to river influence. Areas of high benthic fluxes near-shore and of low benthic fluxes offshore on the shelf were distinguished. Nutrients and suspended particulate matter discharged by the Danube is kept nearshore by the coastal current. The oxygen concentrations in the bottom water varied strongly between the two seasons. In summer, the bottom water at the near-shore stations turned anoxic. In spring, the higher oxygen concentrations are related to more intense mixing of the water column due to stormy periods and high river discharge. Highest oxygen concentrations were found on the offshore continental shelf. However, the benthic oxygen consumption rates in spring (13-23 mmol m -2 day -1) were as high as in summer. Areas with highest nutrient concentrations in the overlaying bottom water were found at the Danube delta front and Danube prodelta. On the Danube delta front and the Dniestr mouth, ammonia fluxes were lower in spring (1·1-1·7 mmol m -2 day -1) than in the summer (2·6-4·4 mmol m -2 day -1) due to higher nitrification rates and the lower influx of organic matter. In spring, the concentrations of dissolved iron and manganese in the bottom water were one order of magnitude lower than during the summer. This decrease in flux rates is related to the higher oxygen concentrations in the bottom water in spring. A rough comparison of the river's nutrient load and the benthic recycling over a certain area showed that the near-shore benthic phosphate and silica recycling account for 50% and 35% of the Danube input in summer, respectively. The fluxes of ammonia from benthic recycling and from the Danube discharge were at the same order of magnitude in both seasons. Nitrogen is introduced by the rivers mostly as nitrate. Benthic recycling is the dominant source of ammonia. The Danube input is phosphate deficient. In brief, benthic nutrient recycling is an important factor in sustaining high productivity of the system.