Streams in Mediterranean climate regions: Abiotic influences and biotic responses to predictable seasonal events

Avital Gasith, Vincent H. Resh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Streams in mediterranean-climate regions (areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, parts of western North America, parts of west and south Australia, southwestern South Africa and parts of central Chile) are physically, chemically, and biologically shaped by sequential, predictable, seasonal events of flooding and drying over an annual cycle. Correspondingly, aquatic communities undergo a yearly cycle whereby abiotic (environmental) controls that dominate during floods are reduced when the discharge declines, which is also a time when biotic controls (e.g. predation, competition) can become important. As the dry season progresses, habitat conditions become harsher; environmental pressures may again become the more important regulators of stream populations and community structure. In contrast to the synchronous input of autumn litterfall in forested temperate streams, riparian input to mediterranean-type streams is more protracted, with fall and possibly spring peaks occurring in streams in the Northern Hemisphere and a summer peak existing in their Southern Hemisphere counterparts. We present 25 testable hypotheses that relate to the influence of the stream hydrograph on faunal richness, abundance, and diversity; species coexistence; seasonal changes in the relative importance of abiotic and biotic controls on the biotic structure; riparian inputs and the relative importance of heterotrophy compared to autotrophy; and the impact of human activities on these seasonally water-stressed streams. Population increases in mediterranean-climate regions (particularly in fertile regions) result in an intensification of the competition for water among different users; consequently, water abstraction, flow regulation, increased salinity, and pollution severely limit the ability of the streams to survive as sustainable, self-regulated systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-81
Number of pages31
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology and Systematics
StatePublished - 1999


  • Drying
  • Flooding
  • Human impact


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