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1. Field and laboratory experiments were conducted to assess the relative influence of water quality and substratum quality on benthic macroinvertebrate communities in the Animas River, a metal-polluted stream in south-western Colorado (U.S.A.). 2. A community-level in situ toxicity test measured direct effects of Animas River water on benthic invertebrates collected from a reference stream (Elk Creek). The effects of metal-contaminated biofilm were examined by comparing macroinvertebrate colonisation of clean and contaminated substrata placed in Elk Creek. A feeding experiment with the mayfly Baetis tricaudatus Dodds (Ephemeroptera: Baetidae) examined metal bioaccumulation and effects of metal-contaminated biofilm...