SUMMARY 1. Rivers are linear ecosystems across landscapes with an effective transport of organisms, sediment and organic matter. Dispersal is studied mostly during single events and for single species, and there is little knowledge on how the drift of plant litter and propagules varies within and between years for entire communities.
2. We used floating traps for collecting waterborne plant litter and propagules in a small boreal river over 2 years. We installed the traps at four different locations along the river, and emptied them at least once a week during the ice-free season. We analysed propagule content by sorting and identifying species and through germination tests on bare soil.
3. In total, we recorded at least 54 taxa in the samples, and the highest density recorded in one sample was 5000 propagules per 100 g litter (dry weight). Large temporal variations in litter and propagule transport were revealed, both within and between years.
4. The longitudinal pattern was consistent between years, with an increasing mass of litter and number of propagule taxa downstream. The results highlight the importance of the temporal and longitudinal dimensions in river management.