1. Rates of whole-system metabolism (production and respiration) are fundamental indicators of ecosystem structure and function. Although first-order, proximal controls are well understood, assessments of the interactions between proximal controls and distal controls, such as land use and geographic region, are lacking. Thus, the influence of land use on stream metabolism across geographic regions is unknown. Further, there is limited understanding of how land use may alter variability in ecosystem metabolism across regions.2. Stream metabolism was measured in nine streams in each of eight regions (n = 72) across the United States and Puerto Rico. In each region, three streams were selected from a range of three land uses: agriculturally influenced, urban-influenced, and reference streams. Stream metabolism was estimated from diel changes in dissolved oxygen concentrations in each stream reach with correction for reaeration and groundwater input.3. Gross primary production (GPP) was highest in regions with little riparian vegetation (sagebrush steppe in Wyoming, desert shrub in Arizona/New Mexico) and lowest in forested regions (North Carolina, Oregon). In contrast, ecosystem respiration (ER) varied both within and among regions. Reference streams had significantly lower rates of GPP than urban or agriculturally influenced streams.4. GPP was positively correlated with photosynthetically active radiation and autotrophic biomass. Multiple regression models compared using Akaike's information criterion (AIC) indicated GPP increased with water column ammonium and the fraction of the catchment in urban and reference land-use categories. Multiple regression models also identified velocity, temperature, nitrate, ammonium, dissolved organic carbon, GPP, coarse benthic organic matter, fine benthic organic matter and the fraction of all land-use categories in the catchment as regulators of ER.5. Structural equation modelling indicated significant distal as well as proximal control pathways including a direct effect of land-use on GPP as well as SRP, DIN, and PAR effects on GPP; GPP effects on autotrophic biomass, organic matter, and ER; and organic matter effects on ER.6. Overall, consideration of the data separated by land-use categories showed reduced inter-regional variability in rates of metabolism, indicating that the influence of agricultural and urban land use can obscure regional differences in stream metabolism. ?? 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.