Lower to Middle Ordovician transitional strata (Acrograptus filiformis Biozone to Exigraptus clavus Biozone) of the Upper Yangtze Platform contain rich and diverse brachiopods, particularly in the Daguanshan Formation of Sichuan Province, the Meitan Formation of Guizhou Province, and the Yingpan Formation of Houping, Chongqing City. On the basis of multivariate analyses of 207 samples (about 15 000 brachiopod specimens) and 61 species from these strata, 23 brachiopod-dominated communities and associations are delineated through six graptolitic biozones (Acrograptus filiformis to Exigraptus clavus biozones). The disparity of brachiopod associations or β-diversity, as measured by the number of contemporaneous associations across variable ecological settings, was low in the A. filiformis Biozone and increased through the overlying graptolitic biozones to reach an acme in the Azygograptus suecisus and Expansograptus hirundo biozones, where as many as nine different brachiopod associations thrived in mid-shelf and also established in inner- and outer-shelf environments. Despite a sharp increase in α-diversity within the Didymograptellus eobifidus Biozone, β-diversity remained relatively low, with only three distinct brachiopod communities. The diversity of brachiopod associations suffered an abrupt drop in the E. clavus Biozone, as a result of a major faunal turnover event, with only a single Metorthis Community present in an upper mid-shelf setting. Temporally, brachiopod associations appear to be most stable in mid-shelf settings, with the Paralenorthis, Sinorthis, Desmorthis, and Euorthisina communities having a relatively high α-diversity and lasting through two to five graptolitic biozones. In both species composition and temporal duration, the brachiopod associations at the shallow- (BA1 to upper BA2) and deep-shelf (BA4) settings are unstable, characterized by low α-diversity and rapid vertical changes. This study implies that, during the Early and Mid Ordovician, brachiopod communities already attained a high level of organization in mid-shelf settings, but remained poorly established in high-stress environments of very shallow or very deep shelf settings. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.