The two local crustacean species Hyalella curvispina and Macrobrachium borelli were chosen for assessment of agricultural contamination in two streams (Horqueta and Maguire) in the Argentine pampa. In parallel with in situ bioassays of both species, the population dynamics and the organismic drift of H. curvispina were investigated throughout the main period of insecticide application, from December 2001 to March 2002. In Maguire none of the current-use insecticides (chlorpyrifos, alpha-cypermethrin, and endosulfan) in question were detected throughout the sampling period. During 1-week intervals with no contamination by insecticides the survival rate of H. curvispina varied between 77 +/- 6% (+/- SE, n = 4) and 85 +/- 3%. In Horqueta during a week with a peak insecticide contamination of 64 microg/kg chlorpyrifos in the suspended particles, a mortality of 100% was observed in the in situ bioassays for both species, H. curvispina and M. borelli. At the same time, in Maguire H. curvispina showed reduced survival rates of 23 +/- 5% and 25 +/- 18% at the two sites, while the survival rate of M. borelli was 60 +/- 11% upstream and 93 +/- 5% downstream, below a wetland. During the period with 100% mortality of H. curvispina in Horqueta, the population density of this species decreased correspondingly, from 106 +/- 26 to 0 individuals/m(2). We conclude that in situ bioassays can be successfully linked to in-stream population dynamics for the same species and that this link is very useful for interpreting causal exposure-effect relationships.