Pulsed salt tracer injections (salt slugs) are widely used for measuring discharge in streams, particularly in small streams. However, salt slug usage in stream ecology studies is limited, possibly due to concerns that salt injections may affect biotic results. We used salt slug measurements concomitantly with macroinvertebrate sampling over the course of a summer field season and show that the realistic use of salt slugs to measure discharge at our sites was benign with respect to several common biotic community metrics. Salt slug discharge measurements may warrant more usage as a component of stream ecology studies. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.