Although combining datasets is often needed to unravel large-scale or long-term patterns in benthos ecology, this is frequently hampered by differences in technical design of the individual studies. One element that often vary among macrobenthic studies is the sieving procedure: sieving alive versus sieving after fixation. This study therefore aimed at the qualification and quantification of the impact of sieving procedure, using a 1 mm mesh sized sieve, at three levels of ecological organisation: (1) diversity, (2) species and taxon density, and (3) community structure. To include a maximum suite of macrobenthic species and to evaluate the community-specific effects, the impact of sieving procedure was investigated within four widely spread macrobenthos communities in the Belgian part of the North Sea. Sieving alive negatively impacted all tested diversity measures (S, N-1, N-2, N-infinity, H', ES100 and J'): community-dependent relative losses of up to 35% were observed. However, most trends were ambiguous and statistically non-significant. Community- and taxon-dependent impacts were detected at the level of density. Mainly polychaetes were found to be negatively impacted by sieving alive (relative losses maximum 81: especially small, interstitial polychaetes (e.g. Hesionura elongata and Spio filicornis) tend to actively escape from the sieve (relative loss up to 100. Next to size, also behaviour, the presence of head appendages, the depth of the sampling stations and sampling season are believed to influence the sieving procedure impact. While detailed community composition was impacted (ANOSIM dissimilarity: maximum 85, no major impact on the differentiation between the investigated communities was detected. The present study thus demonstrated that combining data, retrieved with a different sieving procedure can be useful, but its reliability will mainly depend on the type of questions one wants to answer. In all cases caution at all levels of ecological organisation is advised.