Aim To determine the empirical relationships between species richness and spatial turnover in species composition across spatial scales. These have remained little explored despite the fact that such relationships are fundamental to understanding spatial diversity patterns.
Location South-east Scotland.
Methods Defining local species richness simply as the total number of species at a finer resolution than regional species richness and spatial turnover as turnover in species identity between any two or more areas, we determined the empirical relationships between all three, and the influence of spatial scale upon them, using data on breeding bird distributions. We estimated spatial turnover using a measure independent of species richness gradients, a fundamental feature which has been neglected in theoretical studies.
Results Local species richness and spatial turnover exhibited a negative relationship, which became stronger as larger neighbourhood sizes were considered in estimating the latter. Spatial turnover and regional species richness did not show any significant relationship, suggesting that spatial species replacement occurs independently of the size of the regional species pool. Local and regional species richness only showed the expected positive relationship when the size of the local scale was relatively large in relation to the regional scale.
Conclusions Explanations for the relationships between spatial turnover and local and regional species richness can be found in the spatial patterns of species commonality, gain and loss between areas.