Natural communities are open systems and consequently dispersal can play an important role for the diversity, composition and functioning of communities at the local scale. It is, however, still unclear how effects of dispersal differ depending on the initial diversity of local communities. Here we implemented an experiment where we manipulated the initial diversity of natural freshwater bacterioplankton communities using a dilution-to-extinction approach as well as dispersal from a regional species pool. The aim was further to test whether dispersal effects on bacterial abundance and functional parameters (average community growth rates, respiration rates, substrate utilisation ability) differ in dependence of the initial diversity of the communities. First of all, we found that both initial diversity and dispersal rates had an effect on the recruitment of taxa from a regional source, which was higher in communities with low initial diversity and at higher rates of dispersal. Higher initial diversity and dispersal also promoted higher levels of richness and evenness in local communities and affected, both, separately or interactively, the functional performance of communities. Our study therefore suggests that dispersal can influence the diversity, composition and functioning of bacterial communities and that this effect may be enhanced if the initial diversity of communities is depleted.