Although the ecological effects of surface wateracidification are now well researched, factorscontrolling the abundance and occurrence of aquaticorganisms in unpolluted acid-sensitive systems arepoorly known. The Høylandet region in central Norwayexperiences relatively low levels of atmosphericpollution and its surface waters, although acid, arenot significantly acidified. Hence lakes and streamsin this region were selected to study the influence ofwater chemistry on diatom algae. Relationships betweenthe two were explored using the multivariate techniqueof canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). Theprincipal water chemistry variables influencingspecies composition of periphytic diatoms were foundto be pH and water colour. Furthermore, therelationship between species abundance and pH wassufficiently strong to enable reconstruction of wateracidity from diatom data. Establishing the nature ofaquatic communities in atmospherically clean butgeologically sensitive regions is an important meansof identifying control systems against which therecovery of acidified lakes in polluted regions can beassessed. The Høylandet region has the potential toprovide a Europe-wide control system of this naturebut much further work is required to follow up andextend the results of this preliminary study.