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Keywords:

  • Chihuahuan Desert;
  • community saturation;
  • competition;
  • density;
  • local richness;
  • proportional sampling;
  • regional richness

The shape of the relationship between local and regional richness has been used to infer the relative strength of local vs. regional processes in structuring communities. While most empirical work has demonstrated linear relationships, recent reviews suggest that prior work has contained biases by selecting communities from different biological provinces and by defining large-scale local communities. We evaluate the utility of inferring interaction strength from local–regional relationships by examining 11 years of data from small-scale, annual plant communities at one site with strong local interactions. Both winter and summer annual plant assemblages exhibited linear rather than saturating relationships over a wide range of regional pool sizes. Our empirical work supports recent theory suggesting that local–regional relationships cannot be used to infer the strength of interactions in communities.