Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 13, pp 3189–3222 | Cite as

Environmental correlates of plant and invertebrate species richness in ponds

  • Christopher HassallEmail author
  • Jim Hollinshead
  • Andrew Hull
Original Paper


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.


Species richness Invertebrates Plants Pond Shade Water permanence Generalised additive model 



The Pond Life Project is funded by the Life Programme of the European Union and a consortium of partners, including Cheshire County Council, with Warrington and Vale Royal Borough Councils. We are indebted to Jonathan Guest and David Bentley for their efforts in carrying out the pond surveys. CH was supported by a Government of Canada Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.


  1. Bendell BE, McNicol DK (1987) Fish predation, lake acidity and the composition of aquatic insect assemblages. Hydrobiologia 150:193–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bendell BE, McNicol DK (1995) Lake acidity, fish predation and the distribution and abundance of some littoral insects. Hydrobiologia 302:133–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biggs J, Williams P, Whitfield M, Nicolet P, Weatherby A (2005) 15 years of pond assessment in Britain: results and lessons learned from the work of Pond Conservation. Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 15:693–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blumenshine SC, Lodge DM, Hodgson JR (2000) Gradient of fish predation alters body size distributions of lake benthos. Ecology 81:374–386Google Scholar
  5. Briers RA, Biggs J (2005) Spatial patterns in pond invertebrate communities: separating environmental and distance effects. Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 15:549–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruun HH (2000) Patterns of species richness in dry grassland patches in an agricultural landscape. Ecography 23:641–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carchini G, Solimini AG, Ruggiero A (2005) Habitat characteristics and odonate diversity in mountain ponds of central Italy. Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 15:573–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Céréghino R, Biggs J, Oertli B, Declerck S (2008) The ecology of European ponds: defining the characteristics of a neglected freshwater habitat. Hydrobiologia 597:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chase JM, Ryberg WA (2004) Connectivity, scale-dependence, and the productivity–diversity relationship. Ecol Lett 7:676–683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collinson NH, Biggs J, Corfield A, Hodson MJ, Walker D, Whitfield M, Williams PJ (1995) Temporary and permanent ponds: an assessment of the effects of drying out on the conservation value of aquatic macroinvertebrate communities. Biol Conserv 74:125–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cottenie K, De Meester L (2003) Connectivity and cladoceran species richness in a metacommunity of shallow lakes. Freshw Biol 48:823–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cottenie K, Michels E, Nuytten N, De Meester L (2003) Zooplankton metacommunity structure: regional vs. local processes in highly interconnected ponds. Ecology 84:991–1000CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davies B, Biggs J, Williams P, Whitfield M, Nicolet P, Sear D, Bray S, Maund S (2008) Comparative biodiversity of aquatic habitats in the European agricultural landscape. Agric Ecosyst Environ 125:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Meester L, Declerck S, Stoks R, Louette G, Van De Meutter F, De Bie T, Michels E, Brendonck L (2005) Ponds and pools as model systems in conservation biology, ecology and evolutionary biology. Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 15:715–725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dengler J (2010) Robust methods for detecting a small island effect. Divers Distrib 16:256–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dorn NJ (2008) Colonisation and reproduction of large macroinvertebrates are enhanced by drought-related fish reductions. Hydrobiologia 605:209–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Downing JA, Cole JJ, Middelburg JJ, Striegel RG, Duarte CM, Kortelainen P, Prairie YT and Laube KA (2008) Sediment organic carbon burial in agriculturally eutrophic impoundments over the last century. Global Biogeochem Cycles 22:GB1018Google Scholar
  18. Durance I, Ormerod SJ (2008) Trends in water quality and discharge confound long-term warming effects on river macroinvertebrates. Freshw Biol 54:388–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eyre MD, Ball SG, Foster GN (1986) An initial classification of the habitats of aquatic Coleoptera in north-east England. J Appl Ecol 23:841–852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Field R, Hawkins BA, Cornell HV, Currie DJ, Diniz-Filho JAF, Guégan JF, Kaufman DM, Kerr JT, Mittelbach GG, Oberdorff T, O’Brien EM, Turner JRG (2009) Spatial species-richness gradients across scales: a meta-analysis. J Biogeogr 36:132–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fiener P, Auerswald K, Weigand S (2005) Managing erosion and water quality in agricultural watersheds by small detention ponds. Agric Ecosyst Environ 110:132–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Friday LE (1987) The diversity of macroinvertebrate and macrophyte communities in ponds. Freshw Biol 18:87–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gee JHR, Smith BD, Lee KM, Griffiths SW (1997) The ecological basis of freshwater pond management for biodiversity. Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 7:91–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Genkai-Kato M, Carpenter SR (2005) Eutrophication due to phosphorus recycling in relation to lake morphometry, temperature, and macrophytes. Ecology 86:210–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gilliam JF, Fraser DF, Sabat AM (1989) Strong effects of foraging minnows on a stream benthic invertebrate community. Ecology 70:445–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heino J, Tolonen K, Kotanen J, Paasivirta L (2009) Indicator groups and congruence of assemblage similarity, species richness, and environmental relationships in littoral macroinvertebrates. Biodivers Conserv 18:3085–3098CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hinden H, Oertli B, Menetrey N, Sager L, Lachavanne JB (2005) Alpine pond biodiversity: what are the related environmental variables? Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 15:613–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jackson ST, Betancourt JL, Booth RK, Gray ST (2009) Ecology and the ratchet of events: climate variability, niche dimensions, and species distributions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106:19685–19692PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jackson JK, Resh VH (1989) Distribution and abundance of adult aquatic insects in the forest adjacent to a northern California stream. Environ Entomol 18:278–283Google Scholar
  30. Jeffries MJ (1991) The ecology and conservation value of forestry ponds in Scotland, United Kingdom. Biol Conserv 58:191–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jeffries MJ (2003) Idiosyncratic relationships between pond invertebrates and environmental, temporal and patch-specific predictors of incidence. Ecography 26:311–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jeffries MJ (2005) Small ponds and big landscapes: the challenge of invertebrate spatial and temporal dynamics for European pond conservation. Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 15:541–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Joye DA, Oertli B, Lehmann A, Juge R, Lachavanne J-B (2006) The prediction of macrophyte species occurrence in Swiss ponds. Hydrobiologia 570:175–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Leibold MA, McPeek MA (2006) Coexistence of the niche and neutral perspectives in community ecology. Ecology 87:1399–1410PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lomolino MV (2000) Ecology’s most general, yet protean pattern: the species-area relationship. J Biogeogr 27:17–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lomolino MV, Weiser MD (2001) Towards a more general species–area relationship: diversity on all islands, great and small. J Biogeogr 28:431–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McAbendroth L, Ramsay PM, Foggo A, Rundle SD, Bilton DT (2005) Does macrophyte fractal complexity drive invertebrate diversity, biomass and body size distributions? Oikos 111:279–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McPeek MA (1990) Behavioral differences between Enallagma species (Odonata) influencing differential vulnerability to predators. Ecology 71:1714–1726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Menetrey N, Sager L, Lachavanne JB, Oertli B (2005) Looking for metrics to assess the trophic state of ponds. Macroinvertebrates and amphibians. Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 15:653–664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Oertli B, Joye DA, Castella E, Juge R, Cambin D, Lachavanne J-B (2002) Does size matter? The relationship between pond area and biodiversity. Biol Conserv 104:59–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Oksanen J, Blanchet FG, Kindt R, Legendre P, O’Hara RB, Simpson GL, SolymosP, Stevens MHH and Wagner H (2011) vegan: Community Ecology Package. R package version 1.17-10. []. Accessed 10 Apr 2011
  42. Pinheiro J, Bates D, DebRoy S, Sarkar D, The R Development Core Team (2011) nlme: Linear and nonlinear mixed effects models. R package version 3:1–100Google Scholar
  43. R Development Core Team (2010) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  44. Resetarits W (2001) Colonization under threat of predation: avoidance of fish by an aquatic beetle, Tropisternus lateralis (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae). Oecologia 129:155–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rosset V, Lehmann A, Oertli B (2010) Warmer and richer? Predicting the impact of climate warming on species richness in small temperate waterbodies. Global Change Biol 16:2376–2387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Scheffer M, Van Geest GJ, Zimmer K, Jeppesen E, Søndergaard M, Butler MG, Hanson MA, Declerck S, De Meester L (2006) Small habitat size and isolation can promote species richness: second-order effects on biodiversity in shallow lakes and ponds. Oikos 112:227–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Scher O, Chavaren P, Despreaux M, Thiéry A (2004) Highway stormwater detention ponds as biodiversity islands? Arch Sci 57:121–130Google Scholar
  48. Schilling EG, Loftin CS, Huryn AD (2009) Macroinvertebrates as indicators of fish absence in naturally fishless lakes. Freshw Biol 54:181–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Semlitsch RD (1998) Biological delineation of terrestrial buffer zones for pond-breeding salamanders. Conserv Biol 12:1113–1119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Smith VH, Foster BL, Grover JP, Holt RD, Leibold MA, de Noyelles F (2005) Phytoplankton species richness scales consistently from laboratory microcosms to the world’s oceans. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102:4393–4396PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Søndergaard M, Jeppesen E, Jensen JP (2005) Pond or lake: does it make any difference? Arch Hydrobiol 162:143–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Suh AN, Samways MJ (2005) Significance of temporal changes when designing a reservoir for conservation of dragonfly diversity. Biodivers Conserv 14:165–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sutherland WJ, Pullin AS, Dolman PM, Knight TM (2004) The need for evidence-based conservation. Trends Ecol Evol 19:305–308PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tews J, Brose U, Grimm V, Tielbörger K, Wichmann MC, Schwager M, Jeltsch F (2004) Animal species diversity driven by habitat heterogeneity/diversity: the importance of keystone structures. J Biogeogr 31:79–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tjørve E, Tjørve KMC (2011) Subjecting the theory of the small-island effect to Ockham’s razor. J Biogeogr 38:1836–1839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Van De Meutter F, Stoks R, De Meester L (2006) Rapid response of macroinvertebrates to drainage management of shallow connected lakes. J Appl Ecol 43:51–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Williams DD (1997) Temporary ponds and their invertebrate communities. Aqua Conserv Mar Fresh Ecosyst 7:105–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Williams DD (2003) The brackishwater hyporheic zone: invertebrate community structure across a novel ecotone. Hydrobiologia 510:153–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Williams DD, Williams NE, Cao Y (2000) Road salt contamination of groundwater in a major metropolitan area and development of a biological index to monitor its impact. Water Res 34:127–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Williams P, Whitfield M, Biggs J, Bray S, Fox G, Nicolet P, Sear DA (2004) Comparative biodiversity of rivers, streams, ditches and ponds in an agricultural landscape in Southern England. Biol Conserv 115:329–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wood SN (2006) Generalized additive models: an introduction with RR. Chapman and Hall/CRC, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  62. Wood PJ, Greenwood MT, Barker SA, Gunn J (2001) The effects of amenity management for angling on the conservation value of aquatic invertebrate communities in old industrial ponds. Biol Conserv 102:17–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Hassall
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jim Hollinshead
    • 2
  • Andrew Hull
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.School of Humanities and Social ScienceLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK

Personalised recommendations