Research scientists, watershed managers, and conservationists alike agree that following an ecosystem perspective is the most productive way to examine streams and rivers. The integration of physical-chemical with biological processes, which is the study of ecosystems, has largely replaced single physical factor or single-species approaches to management and rehabilitation of running waters. In the discussion that follows, fluxes of energy and matter into, through, and out of lotic ecosystems are used as basic processes embraced by the integrating paradigms (conceptual models) that presently underlie inquiry into the structure and function of streams and rivers.

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