Macroinvertebrate community composition and diversity in ephemeral and perennial ponds on unregulated floodplain meadows in the UK

© 2016 Springer International Publishing SwitzerlandPonds are common and abundant landscape features in temperate environments, particularly on floodplains where lateral connectivity with riverine systems persists. Despite their widespread occurrence and importance to regional diversity, research on the ecology and hydrology of temperate ephemeral and perennial floodplain ponds lags behind that of other shallow waterbodies. This study examines the aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity of 34 ponds (20 perennial and 14 ephemeral) on two unregulated riverine floodplain meadows in Leicestershire, UK. Perennial ponds supported nearly twice the diversity of ephemeral ponds. Despite frequent inundation of floodwater and connectivity with other floodplain waterbodies, ephemeral ponds supported distinct invertebrate communities when compared to perennial ponds. When the relative importance of physical, chemical, biological and spatial characteristics was examined, physical and chemical characteristics were found to account for more variation in community composition than biological or spatial variables. The results suggest that niche characteristics rather than neutral colonisation processes dominate the structure of invertebrate communities of floodplain ponds. The maintenance of pond networks with varying hydroperiod lengths and environmental characteristics should be encouraged as part of conservation management strategies to provide heterogeneous environmental conditions to support and enhance aquatic biodiversity at a landscape scale.