Resolving the contribution to biodiversity patterns of regional-scale environmental drivers is, to date, essential in the implementation of effective conservation strategies. Here, we assessed the species richness S and taxonomic distinctness Δ+ (used a proxy of phylogenetic diversity) of crustacean zooplankton assemblages from 40 ponds and small lakes located in Albania and North Macedonia and tested whether they could be predicted by waterbodies’ landscape characteristics (area, perimeter, and altitude), together with local bioclimatic conditions that were derived from Wordclim and MODIS databases. The results showed that a minimum adequate model, including the positive effects of non-arboreal vegetation cover and temperature seasonality, together with the negative influence of the mean temperature of the wettest quarter, effectively predicted assemblages’ variation in species richness. In contrast, taxonomic distinctness did not predictably respond to landscape or bioclimatic factors. Noticeably, waterbodies’ area showed a generally low prediction power for both S and Δ+. Additionally, an in-depth analysis of assemblages’ species composition indicated the occurrence of two distinct groups of waterbodies characterized by different species and different precipitation and temperature regimes. Our findings indicated that the classical species-area relationship hypothesis is inadequate in explaining the diversity of crustacean zooplankton assemblages characterizing the waterbodies under analysis. In contrast, local bioclimatic factors might affect the species richness and composition, but not their phylogenetic diversity, the latter likely to be influenced by long-term adaptation mechanisms.
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