Toward a better understanding of the regional causes of local community richness


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Despite widespread acknowledgement that local ecological communities are profoundly shaped by regional-scale influences, including evolutionary and biogeographic processes, this perspective has yet to be widely incorporated into ecological research. Drawing on recent research, we propose four steps towards making regional influences a stronger part of research on the richness of local communities: (1) identifying the regional-scale causes of variation in species richness in the systems ecologists study; (2) testing for effects of regional richness on local richness, using improved observational and experimental analyses to overcome earlier problems; (3) simultaneously analysing environmental influences on regional and local species richness as well as the influence of regional richness on local richness and (4) considering the potential reciprocal effects of local processes on regional richness. In conclusion, we suggest some ways that similar approaches could be applied to other aspects of community structure beyond species richness.