Ecologists frequently regress local species richness on regional species richness to draw inferences about the processes that structure local communities. A more promising approach is to quantify the contributions of alpha and beta diversity to regional diversity (the ABR approach) using additive partitioning. We applied this approach to four local–regional relationships based on data from 583 arboreal beetle species collected in a hierarchically nested sampling design. All four local–regional relationships exhibited proportional sampling, yet the ABR approach indicated that each was produced by a different combination of alpha and beta richness. Using the results of the ABR analysis, we also analysed the scale dependence of alpha and beta using a hierarchical linear model. Alpha diversity contributed less than expected to regional diversity at the finest spatial scale and more than expected at the broadest spatial scale. A switch in relative dominance from beta to alpha diversity with increasing spatial scale suggested scale transitions in ecological processes. Analysing the scale dependence of diversity components using the ABR approach furthers our understanding about the additivity of species diversity in biological communities.