How do we construct and operate experimental streams? An overview of facilities, protocols, and studied questions

Noémi Menczelesz, Ildikó Szivák, Dénes Schmera

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Experimental streams are bounded and partly enclosed lotic units that facilitate the simulation of certain aspects of natural stream ecosystems under controlled conditions. We summarized the current knowledge regarding experimental streams in order to support researchers in designing and undertaking future studies using experimental streams. We observed an increase in the number of such studies since 1975. The geographically uneven distribution of studies suggests that the generalization of findings to global scale may not be straightforward. Our results indicate that macroinvertebrates, fish, and algae are the most frequently studied organisms and that the size of the experimental streams was related to the focal organism group(s) studied. The size of the units decreased over time, while the number of treatments, interpreted as the combination of the levels of factors, increased. These results suggest that biologically complex studies have gradually been replaced by biologically less complex ones. In contrast, the experimental complexity (the number of treatments) and the statistical power (number of replication) increased. Finally, we identified a number of important, but poorly documented pieces of information regarding experimental stream systems and experimental protocols and made recommendations for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Experimental protocol
  • Experimental stream
  • Stream ecology
  • Stream mesocosm
  • Study facility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

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