Detritus processing by a small woodland stream is analysed by following the loss of weight of 10 g, single species accumulations of riparian leaves. The daily loss rates are expressed as exponential coefficients after the data are fitted by least squares. Comparisons are made between two sites on a small hardwater trout stream during two seasons. Leaf processing rates form a continuum from a low of 0.5%/day to a high of 2.0%/day. Differences between species of leaf are observed, but significant differences between fall and winter processing and between the two sites are not.

The response of the invertebrate community to differences in leaf species is investigated using controlled, artificial streams where significant differences in the effect of the invertebrates are related to the ability ofthe leaf to be processed. Evidence suggests that differential invertebrate colonization of leaf packs is a function of microbial colonization and conditioning. The data are used to develop a general scheme of leaf pack processing.