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Keywords:

  • Community assembly;
  • invasibility;
  • local versus regional species richness ;
  • microcosms;
  • Monte Carlo test;
  • protists;
  • species interactions;
  • species saturation

Identifying the factors controlling local community structure is a central problem in ecology. Ecologists frequently use regression to test for a nonlinear saturating relationship between local community richness and regional species pool richness, suggesting that species interactions limit the number of locally coexisting species. However, communities in different regions are not independent if regions share species. We present a Monte Carlo test for whether an observed local-regional richness relationship is significantly different from that expected when regions are nonindependent and species interactions do not limit community membership. We illustrate this test with data from experimental microcosm communities. A conventional F-test suggests a significant saturating relationship between realized community richness and species pool richness. However, the Monte Carlo test fails to reject the null hypothesis that species interactions do not affect community richness. Strong species interactions do not necessarily set an absolute upper limit to the number of locally coexisting species.