The influence of catchment variables on lake organisms is understudied. The terrestrial zone in the vicinity of lakes is, however, probably highly important for biota due to the effects on water chemistry and to various processes operating across ecosystem boundaries. We examined the relative importance of lake and catchment variables, as well as large-scale geographical factors, on the taxa richness of phyto- and zooplankton in 100 small lakes in Finland. In variation partitioning, the variability of phytoplankton richness was most strongly related to the effects of lake variables, the joint effects of lake and catchment variables, and the joint effects of all three groups of variables. Zooplankton richness, in turn, was most strongly related to the effects of lake and catchment variables and the joint effect of lake and catchment variables. The exact results of the variation partitioning depended on the catchment sizes considered in the regression models. Among lake variables, planktonic richness was strongly related to variables indicating productivity. Among catchment variables, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), indicating catchment productivity, showed a relatively strong association with planktonic richness. These results provide evidence that catchment variables such as the NDVI may be efficient predictors of planktonic richness in small lakes. It is possible that individual lakes embedded in a highly productive landscape have higher taxa richness than solitary, potentially productive lakes because of the high influx of dispersing propagules from the regional pool. We also suggest that catchment variables may respond to environmental changes at different scales than the lake variables, and explicit consideration of catchment productivity would therefore be useful when planning research and monitoring programs for freshwater organisms.
Key words: catchment, diversity, Finland, macroecology, NDVI, normalized difference vegetation index, phytoplankton, ponds, remote sensing, scale, zooplankton