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The goal of this study was to improve the understanding of the large-scale mechanisms underlying the recovery of the zooplankton of Lake Orta from historical contamination, following reduced input of ammonia and metals and the subsequent 1989/90 liming intervention. The industrial pollution had been severe and long-lasting (1929-1990). Zooplankton biodiversity has improved, but most of the new taxa appearing in our counts are rotifers, while many calanoids and the large cladoceran predators (Bythotrephes and Leptodora) that are common in the nearby Lake Maggiore, were still absent from Lake Orta 17 years after liming. To aid understanding of the large-scale mechanisms controlling changes in annual richness, we assessed the annual persistence (P) of Crustacea and Rotifera taxa as an estimator of whether propagules that survived introduction, as result of the natural recolonization process, also thrived. We found that the rate of introduction of zooplankton colonists and their persistence in the water column of Lake Orta changed from 1971 to 2007. New rotifer taxa appeared in the lake after the mid-1980s, when discharge of toxic substances decreased, but their annual persistence was low (P<0.5) until the turn of the century. The numerical values of rotifer and crustacean persistence in Lake Orta were unexpectedly high in 2001 and 2007 (0.55 and 0.72 for rotifers, 0.85 and 0.86 for crustacean, respectively), much higher than in limed lakes in Sudbury, Canada, and in adjacent Lake Maggiore. We hypothesize this could be related to the lack of Cladoceran predators and zooplanktivorous fish in the pelagic waters of Lake Orta.