Whole body Zn concentrations in individuals (n = 825) from three aquatic insect taxa (mayflies Rhithrogena spp. and Drunella spp. and the caddisfly Arctopsyche grandis) were used to predict effects on populations and communities (n = 149 samples). Both mayflies accumulated significantly more Zn than the caddisfly. The presence/absence of Drunella spp. most reliably distinguished sites with low and high Zn concentrations; however, population densities of mayflies were more sensitive to increases in accumulated Zn. Critical tissue residues (634 (mu or u)g/g Zn for Drunella spp. and 267 (mu or u)g/g Zn for Rhithrogena spp.) caused a 20% reduction in maximum (90th quantile) mayfly densities. These critical tissue residues were associated with exposure to 7.0 and 3.9 (mu or u)g/L dissolved Zn for Drunella spp. and Rhithrogena spp., respectively. A threshold in a measure of taxonomic completeness (observed/expected) was observed at 5.4 (mu or u)g/L dissolved Zn. Dissolved Zn concentrations associated with critical tissue residues in mayflies were also associated with adverse effects in the aquatic community as a whole. These effects on populations and communities occurred at Zn concentrations below the U.S. EPA hardness-adjusted continuous chronic criterion.