Aim Ecologists have shown increasing interest in the relative roles of local and regional factors in structuring biotic communities. One approach to studying this is to examine the relationship between local species richness (LSR) and regional species richness (RSR). We examined the LSR–RSR relationship in stream diatoms, using two data sets that varied in spatial extent. At broad spatial extent ranging across drainage systems, we expected climatic and dispersal-related factors to constrain LSR, thus resulting in a linear LSR–RSR relationship. However, at small spatial scales dispersal across sites should be unconstrained, resulting in strong local interactions and a weak or asymptotic LSR–RSR relationship.
Location Boreal streams in Finland.
Methods For data set 1, we sampled 15 stream riffles (localities) in each of eight drainage systems (regions), with the latitudinal gradient between the southernmost and northernmost sites being almost 1100 km. For data set 2, a locality for estimating LSR was a single stone, and each riffle represented a region for estimating RSR. We sampled 20 stones in each of eight riffles. We used linear regressions to examine the relationship between LSR and RSR across regions. We used both observed richness values, as well as values estimated with the Chao1 estimator.
Results We found a relatively strong linear relationship between the Chao1-estimated mean LSR and RSR (R2 = 0.654, P = 0.015) across drainage systems. The slope of the regression was 0.643 and it did not differ from 1.0, thus indicating linearity. At the riffle scale, however, LSR and RSR were not linearly related, and the slope of the regression (0.039) differed significantly from 1.0, indicating curvilinearity.
Main conclusions These results suggest that the relationship between mean LSR and RSR varies across spatial scales in diatoms – from significantly linear at large scales to curvilinear at small scales. These plots imply strong regional enrichment in stream diatoms across drainage systems. Their diversity is thus determined largely by the composition of the regional species pool, as also in many macroorganisms. In contrast, at small spatial scales the LSR–RSR relationship implied a hard limit to local diversity, reflecting the primacy of local processes.