Historical records and data from yield surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010 were used to investigate macroinvertebrate community succession trends in Dianchi Lake. Species richness has declined from 57 in the 1980s to 32 in 2010, representing a species loss of 44%. Among the major benthic groups, the highest rate of loss was recorded for mollusks (75%) and aquatic insects (39%). Surveys in 2009 and 2010 across the lake revealed that the total density was 1776 ind/m2, comprising oligochaetes (1706 ind/m2) and chironomids (68 ind/m2). Over a nearly twenty-year span (1992 − 2010), the density and biomass of oligochaetes first increased sharply (1992 – 2002) and then declined gradually (2002 – 2010). Further, chironomids have decreased gradually while the proportion of abundant species has increased. Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri became the sole dominant species with an average relative abundance of 74.1%. Cosmopolitan species, such as Einfeldia sp., disappeared across the lake; instead, tolerant species such as Chironomus plumosus, Ch. attenuatus and Tanypus chinensis became the common. Mollusk community structure has become simpler and many native species have gone extinct. Species of concern include Margarya melanioides, M. mondi, M. mansugi and Cipangopaludina dianchiensis, all rated as critically endangered by the IUCN. We found that the Shannon-Wiener index declined in Dianchi Lake, particularly in Caohai Lake, from 2.70 in the 1950s to 0.30 in 2009 and 2010. Species richness and biodiversity was significantly negative correlated with total phosphorus and total nitrogen. Factors responsible for the benthic community retrogression described here include habitat destruction, lowering of water quality, outbreaks of blue-green algae, extinction of submerged plants and lack of germplasm resources.