Limnology in Australia

Volume 61 of the series Monographiae Biologicae pp 313-327

Ecology of Temporary Streams—an Australian Perspective

  • A. J. BoultonAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Monash University
  • , P. J. SuterAffiliated withEngineering and Water Supply Department, State Water Laboratories

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Limnologists in Australia are well positioned to make significant contributions to temporary-stream ecology, a field that has received little attention worldwide. The great variation in physical and chemical conditions does not appear to depress macroinvertebrate species richness in some Australian temporary streams, and there is a considerable species overlap between permanent and temporary streams. The coincidence of zero flow with peak allochthonous organic input has important repercussions on transport of dissolved and particulate organic matter when flow resumes, and much is yet to be learnt about the biotic processing of this ‘pulse’ of material.

The study of intermittent streams provides a fresh approach to succession theory and to the assessment of ecosystem stability and mechanisms of community structure and recolonization because of the severity of the effects of flood and drought upon the resident species. Our ignorance of the ecology of temporary streams may limit the successful application of pollution control measures, which have been developed for streams with predictable continuous flow.