Dispersal is a major factor regulating the number of coexisting species, but the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem processes has mainly been analysed for communities closed to dispersal. We experimentally investigated how initial local diversity and dispersal frequency affect local diversity and biomass production in open benthic microalgal metacommunities. Final local species richness and local biomass production were strongly influenced by dispersal frequency but not by initial local diversity. Both final local richness and final local biomass showed a hump-shaped pattern with increasing dispersal frequency, with a maximum at intermediate dispersal frequencies. Consequently, final local biomass increased linearly with increasing final richness. We conclude that the general relationship between richness and ecosystem functioning remains valid in open systems, but the maintenance of ecosystem processes significantly depends on the effects of dispersal on species richness and local interactions.