1. The retention characteristics of two moorland streams in mid-Wales were manipulated for 2 years by the addition of small traps which accumulated detritus. Leaf litter was also added to these essentially treeless streams at regular intervals to simulate natural inputs to a woodland stream.
2. Leaf traps retained a significantly higher biomass of detritus - both naturally occurring and added - than either the surrounding stream bed or unmanipulated reference sections. They also supported significantly higher numbers of nemourid, leuctrid, tipulid and elminthid insect larvae.
3. Among functional feeding groups, detritivores and, to a lesser extent, predators responded to increased detritus availability. Numbers of mayfly larvae were low in leaf packs, suggesting a negative effect of detritus aggregations on their numbers.
4. The taxa which responded positively to increased detrital biomass, particularly stonefly larvae, are known to be tolerant of low pH conditions, whereas those affected detrimentally are generally absent from acid waters. It is proposed therefore that increasing detrital inputs and litter retention in culturally acidified upland streams may serve to increase their invertebrate productivity.