1. Aquatic macrophyte diversity and water quality of 55 ponds in western Japan were related to land use and morphometric variables to identify the environmental factors that sustain biodiversity and the spatial extent at which these factors operate.
2. The relevant spatial extent for floating-leaved macrophyte richness (500 m from pond edge) was larger than that for submerged macrophyte occurrence (10, 75 and 100 m), whereas emergent macrophyte richness was best explained at much larger extents (1000 m). Total macrophyte richness was explained at the extent of 500, 750 and 1000 m. The extents relevant for explaining the physicochemical condition of pond water (100 and 250 m) were similar to those for submerged and floating-leaved macrophytes, suggesting that these two growth forms are more sensitive to water quality compared to emergent macrophytes.
3. Diversity of all three growth forms and that of total macrophytes collectively were inversely related to turbidity and nutrient concentration; among the three growth forms, submerged macrophytes were most affected by water quality.
4. Negative relationships were found between the proportion of urban area and the diversity of the three growth forms and that of total macrophytes and water quality. Species richness of emergent, floating-leaved and total macrophytes decreased with depth and increased with surface area up to about 5000 m2, above which it declined.
5. Urbanisation and enlargement of ponds were the two main factors that decreased aquatic macrophyte diversity in irrigation ponds. To alleviate the adverse effects of urban areas on aquatic macrophyte diversity, our results suggest that management efforts should focus on the creation of buffer zones within the relevant spatial extent from the pond edge.