Sediment samples collected during expedition ARK XIII/2 in summer 1997 with the German ice-breaker R/V POLARSTERN were investigated to estimate benthic microbial activity and total biomass of the smallest sediment-inhabiting organisms (size range from bacteria to meiofauna) from the Yermak Plateau northwest of Spitsbergen and adjacent deep-sea areas. Stations covered water depths from about 500 m north of Svålbard and on top of the Yermak Plateau to 3250-4250 m in the Fram Strait and the Nansen Basin. The area of investigations is located in a region with permanent ice-coverage, but in summer 1997 stations along the southern transect crossing the Yermak Plateau at about 81°N lay 50-100 km from the ice-edge. The hydrography of the area is characterized by the inflow of relatively warm, nutrient-rich and particle-laden Atlantic Water into the Arctic Ocean. The input of organic matter from primary production was estimated by measuring concentrations of sediment-bound chloroplastic pigments. Benthic activities and biomasses were evaluated by analyzing a series of biogenic compounds (i.e. bacterial exoenzymes, total adenylates, phospholipids, particulate proteins) in the sediments. Bacterial numbers and biomasses, meiofauna abundances, and nematode biomasses were determined for direct comparison with biochemical parameters. Faunal and biochemical data suggest a high current-driven lateral input of particulate organic matter from the South associated with increased sedimentation rates along the western slope of the Yermak Plateau.