Movement between discrete habitat patches can present significant challenges to organisms. Freshwater invertebrates achieve dispersal using a variety of mechanisms that can be broadly categorized as active or passive, and which have important consequences for processes of colonization, gene flow, and evolutionary divergence. Apart from flight in adult freshwater insects, active dispersal appears relatively uncommon. Passive dispersal may occur through transport by animal vectors or wind, often involving a specific desiccation-resistant stage in the life cycle. Dispersal in freshwater taxa is difficult to study directly, and rare but biologically significant dispersal events may remain undetected. Increased use of molecular markers has provided considerable insight into the frequency of dispersal in freshwater invertebrates, particularly for groups such as crustaceans and bryozoans that disperse passively through the transport of desiccation-resistant propagules. The establishment of propagule banks in sediment promotes dispersal in time and may be particularly important for passive dispersers by allowing temporal escape from unfavorable conditions. Patterns that apply to dispersal in freshwater invertebrates can be readily extended to other freshwater taxa, since common challenges arise from the colonization of isolated aquatic systems.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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