Lotic environments contain a disproportionate amount of biodiversity given their relatively small proportion of the worldwide landscape. We conducted a systematic literature search of research directed towards understanding factors that influence biodiversity in lotic habitats, published in 31 major ecological and freshwater science journals from 1981 to 2014. Our goal was to characterize emergent themes in research successes and identify important areas in need of study. We show an overwhelming taxonomic bias favoring studies of macroinvertebrates and fish, and a paucity in studies of other important groups such as bacteria and fungi. While most studies assessed habitat variables that affect diversity at a local scale, there has been a recent push to investigate regional drivers of beta and gamma diversity. Several factors were consistently found to be important drivers of diversity including local habitat type, hydrologic variables, disturbance, and stream morphometry. Others such as nutrients and chemical variables showed mixed support. Species interactions, dispersal, and evolutionary processes were rarely considered but show promise as fruitful areas for future study. We suggest that researchers should give increased attention to diversity drivers at different scales as well as take advantage of new molecular techniques to address questions regarding organismal diversity in streams.
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