Aim Several lines of evidence suggest that beta diversity, or dissimilarity in species composition, should increase with productivity: (1) the latitudinal species richness gradient is most closely related to productivity and associated latitudinal beta-diversity relationships have been described, and (2) the scale dependence of the productivity–diversity relationship implies that there should be a positive productivity–beta-diversity relationship. However, such a pattern has not yet been demonstrated at broad scales. We test if there is a gradient of increasing beta diversity with productivity.
Methods Canada was clustered into regions of similar productivity regimes along three remotely sensed productivity axes (minimum and integrated annual productivity, seasonality of productivity) and elevation. The overall (βj), turnover (βsim) and nestedness (βnes) components of beta diversity within each productivity regime were estimated with pairwise dissimilarity metrics and related to cluster productivity with partial linear regression and with spatial autoregression. Tests were performed for all species, productivity breadth-based subsets (e.g. species occurring in many and a moderate number of productivity regimes), and pre- and post-1970 butterfly records. Beta diversity between adjacent clusters along the productivity gradients was also evaluated.
Results Within-cluster βj and βsim increased with productivity and decreased with seasonality. The converse was true for βnes. All species subsets responded similarly; however, productivity–beta-diversity relationships were weaker for the post-1970 temporal subset and strongest for species of moderate breadth. Between-cluster beta diversity (βj) and nestedness (βnes) declined with productivity.
Main conclusions As predicted, beta diversity of communities within productivity regimes was observed to increase with productivity. This pattern was driven largely by a gradient of species turnover. Therefore, beta diversity may make an important contribution to the broad-scale gradient of species richness with productivity. However, this species richness gradient dominates regional beta diversity between productivity regimes, resulting in decreasing between-productivity dissimilarity with productivity driven by a concurrent decline in nestedness.