1. Flow permanence (the proportion of time that flowing water is present) strongly influences benthic invertebrate assemblages in ephemeral and intermittent river reaches. Effects of varying flow permanence on hyporheic invertebrate assemblages are not well understood, and have not previously been studied at large spatial scales.
2. We used a 52-km long flow-permanence gradient in the alluvial Selwyn River, New Zealand to assess hyporheic assemblage responses to variation in flow permanence and surface–subsurface exchange. The Selwyn mainstem consists of perennial and temporary reaches embedded in longer downwelling (losing) and upwelling (gaining) sections.
3. We predicted that hyporheic invertebrate diversity, density and assemblage stability would increase with increasing flow permanence. We further predicted that assemblage structure would be influenced by the relative contribution of downwelling and upwelling water at the reach-scale.
4. Hyporheic invertebrates were collected at 15 river cross-sections over a 13-month period. As predicted, hyporheic taxon richness, density and assemblage stability varied directly with flow permanence. The distribution of taxa along the flow permanence gradient appeared to be related to desiccation resistance. However, it is possible that proximity to colonist sources also contributed to distribution patterns.
5. Taxon richness was significantly higher at sites in the gaining section compared with the losing section. Sites with high flow permanence in the gaining and losing sections supported distinct hyporheic assemblages, characterised by amphipods and isopods in the gaining section, and ostracods, Hydra sp. and the mayfly Deleatidium spp. in the losing section.
6. Results of the study suggest an expansion of the scope of the Hyporheic Corridor Concept to include large hyporheic flowpaths associated with unbounded alluvial plains rivers. Hyporheic assemblages in alluvial rivers are strongly influenced by large-scale flow permanence gradients, large-scale surface water–groundwater exchange, and their interactions.