Ponds throughout the world are subjected to a variety of management measures for purposes of biodiversity conservation. Current conservation efforts typically comprise a combination of multiple measures that directly and indirectly impact a wide range of organism groups. Knowledge of the relative impact of individual measures on different taxonomic groups is important for the development of effective conservation programs. We conducted a field study of 28 man-made ponds, representing four management types differing in the frequency of periodic pond drainage and the intensity of fish stock management. We disentangled the relative importance of direct and indirect effects of pond management measures on the community composition of phytoplankton, zooplankton, aquatic macro-invertebrates, submerged and emergent vascular plants. With the exception of phytoplankton, pond management had strong effects on the community composition of all investigated biota. Whether management affected communities directly or indirectly through its impact on fish communities or local environmental conditions in the pond varied between organism groups. Overall, the impact of pond drainage regime and fish community characteristics on the community composition of target organism groups were more important than local environmental conditions. The majority of taxa were negatively associated with fish density, whereas multiple emergent plant species and several taxa of aquatic macro-invertebrates were positively affected by increased drainage frequency. The effects of fish community and drainage tended to be largely independent. The present study indicates that pond drainage is an important element for biodiversity conservation in eutrophicated shallow and interconnected man-made ponds.
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