The relationship between algal species richness and diversity, and pH is controversial. Furthermore, it is still unknown how episodic stream acidification following atmospheric deposition affects species richness and diversity. Here we analyzed water chemistry and diatom epiphyton dynamics and showed their contrasting behavior in chronically vs. episodically acidic streams in the Adirondack region. Species richness and diversity were significantly higher in the chronically acidic brown water stream, where organic acidity was significantly higher and the ratio of inorganic to organic monomeric aluminum significantly lower. Conversely, in the episodically acidic clear water stream, the inorganic acidity and pH were significantly higher and the diatom communities were very species-poor. This suggests that episodic acidification in the Adirondacks may be more stressful for stream biota than chronic acidity. Strong negative linear relationships between species diversity, Eunotia exigua, and dissolved organic carbon against pH were revealed after the influence of non-linear temporal trends was partialled out using a novel way of temporal modeling. ?? 2006 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA.