Environmental correlates of plant and invertebrate species richness in ponds

Ponds (lentic water bodies <2 ha) constitute a considerable biodiversity resource. Understanding the environmental factors that underlie this diversity is important in protecting and managing the habitat. We surveyed 425 ponds for biological and physical characteristics with 78 of those also surveyed for chemical characteristics. A total of 277 invertebrate species and 265 plant species were found. Species richness varied between 2 and 99 (mean 27.2 ± 0.6 SE) for invertebrates and 1 and 58 (mean 20.8 ± 0.4 SE) for plants. Generalised additive models were used to investigate variables that correlate with the species richness of plants and invertebrates, with additional models to investigate insect, Coleoptera, Odonata, Hemiptera, Trichoptera and Mollusca species richness. Models performed reasonably well for invertebrates in general (R 2 = 30.3%) but varied between lower-order invertebrate taxa (12.7–34.7%). Ponds with lower levels of shading and no history of drying contained higher numbers of species of plants and all invertebrate groups. Aquatic plant coverage positively correlated with species richness in all invertebrate groups apart from Trichoptera and the presence of fish was associated with high invertebrate species richness in all groups apart from Coleoptera. The addition of chemistry variables suggested non-linear relationships between oxygen demand and phosphate concentration and higher-order richness. We demonstrate that the composition of biological communities varies along with their species richness and that less diverse ponds are more variable compared to more diverse ponds. Variables positively correlated with richness of one taxon may be negatively correlated with that of another, making comprehensive management recommendations difficult. Promoting a high landscape-level pond biodiversity will involve the management of a high diversity of pond types within that landscape.