The shallow ponds of the nature reserve ‘De Maten’ form a metacommunity, in which individual ponds are highly interconnected via a system of overflows and rivulets. This study reports on the relations between cladoceran species richness and (a) connectivity patterns and (b) local environmental variables. 2. No relation was found between local species richness and three connectivity variables or dispersal pathways. 3. Spatial configuration was related to richness, but was confounded by environmental variables for 2 of 3 years. In those 2 years, there was a significant linear relation between Secchi disc depth and species richness, suggesting an important impact of the clearwater/turbid state alternative equilibria in shallow lakes in determining cladoceran richness. Only in the year in which environmental variables were unimportant did connectivity between the ponds influence species richness. 4. These results suggest that local environmental variables related to the clearwater/turbid state alternative equilibria in shallow lakes are important in determining cladoceran species richness. Connectivity and dispersal of individuals between the different ponds only act secondarily by increasing the general species richness within a pond through dispersal from ponds with different environmental conditions.