© 2016 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.The transfer of organic material from one coastal environment to another can increase production in recipient habitats in a process known as spatial subsidy. Microorganisms drive the generation, transformation, and uptake of organic material in shallow coastal environments, but their significance in connecting coastal habitats through spatial subsidies has received limited attention. We address this by presenting a conceptual model of coastal connectivity that focuses on the flow of microbially mediated organic material in key coastal habitats. Our model suggests that it is not the difference in generation rates of organic material between coastal habitats but the amount of organic material assimilated into microbial biomass and respiration that determines the amount of material that can be exported from one coastal environment to another. Further, the flow of organic material across coastal habitats is sensitive to environmental change as this can alter microbial remineralization and respiration rates. Our model highlights microorganisms as an integral part of coastal connectivity and emphasizes the importance of including a microbial perspective in coastal connectivity studies.