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Benthic invertebrate fauna, small streams

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Wallace, J. Bruce; Eggert, S.L.

Year Published



Encyclopedia of Inland Waters. 2: 173-190.


Small streams (first- through third-order streams) make up >98% of the total number of stream segments and >86% of stream length in many drainage networks. Small streams occur over a wide array of climates, geology, and biomes, which influence temperature, hydrologic regimes, water chemistry, light, substrate, stream permanence, a basin's terrestrial plant cover, and food base of a given stream. Small streams are generally most abundant in the upper reaches of a basin, but they can also be found throughout the basin and may enter directly into larger rivers. They have maximum interface with the terrestrial environment, and in most temperate and tropical climates they may receive large inputs of terrestrial, or allochthonous, organic matter (e.g., leaves, wood) from the surrounding plant communities. In locations with open canopies such as grasslands and deserts, autochthonous or primary production in the form of algae, or higher aquatic plants, may serve as the main food base. Hence, headwater streams display a diverse fauna, which is often adapted to physical, chemical, and biotic conditions of the region.


Wallace, J. Bruce; Eggert, S.L. 2009. Benthic invertebrate fauna, small streams. Encyclopedia of Inland Waters. 2: 173-190.

Last updated on: April 22, 2009