Aim Beta diversity (variation of the species composition of assemblages) may reflect two different phenomena, spatial species turnover and nestedness of assemblages, which result from two antithetic processes, namely species replacement and species loss, respectively. The aim of this paper is to provide a unified framework for the assessment of beta diversity, disentangling the contribution of spatial turnover and nestedness to beta-diversity patterns.
Innovation I derive an additive partitioning of beta diversity that provides the two separate components of spatial turnover and nestedness underlying the total amount of beta diversity. I propose two families of measures of beta diversity for pairwise and multiple-site situations. Each family comprises one measure accounting for all aspects of beta diversity, which is additively decomposed into two measures accounting for the pure spatial turnover and nestedness components, respectively. Finally, I provide a case study using European longhorn beetles to exemplify the relevance of disentangling spatial turnover and nestedness patterns.
Main conclusion Assigning the different beta-diversity patterns to their respective biological phenomena is essential for analysing the causality of the processes underlying biodiversity. Thus, the differentiation of the spatial turnover and nestedness components of beta diversity is crucial for our understanding of central biogeographic, ecological and conservation issues.