• vertical dispersion;
  • algae;
  • tropical stream;
  • rewetting;
  • invertebrates;
  • natural disturbance


Drought is a natural phenomenon experienced by many intermittent and also seasonal lotic systems. It has diverse effects on the structure and distribution of biological communities through habitat transition from wetted to terrestrial conditions. The Njoro River, a tropical stream, was drought-stressed between late 1999 and mid 2000, providing an opportunity to sample and describe the distributional patterns of diatoms and Limnodrilus oligochaetes in the vertical sediment profile. The dispersion of Limnodrilus oligochaetes with sediment depth profile varied from quasi-random (i.e. exponent k of the negative binomial distribution >2.0 or <0) at the surface to strong aggregation (0 < k < 1.0) in the deeper sediments. Diatoms were heterogenous, with most species contributing less than 1% of all the diatoms collected from the riverbed. Contagious dispersion was a common feature among the diatom species. The distribution of Fragilaria ulna was largely quasi-random in all sites, with Nitzschia amphibia and Cocconeis placentula demonstrating quasi-random distribution in the Kerma vertical sediment profile. Escape from stranding to deeper sediment strata as the drought progressed was not a universal response among the diatom species. Our results showed that drought-stress altered the structure of biological assemblages and also emphasized the need for the management of tropical lotic systems and their catchments for flow permanence. (© 2005 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)