Scale dependence in species turnover reflects variance in species occupancy


Patterns of species turnover may reflect the processes driving community dynamics across scales. While the majority of studies on species turnover have examined pairwise comparison metrics (e.g., the average Jaccard dissimilarity), it has been proposed that the species–area relationship (SAR) also offers insight into patterns of species turnover because these two patterns may be analytically linked. However, these previous links only apply in a special case where turnover is scale invariant, and we demonstrate across three different plant communities that over 90\% of the pairwise turnover values are larger than expected based on scale-invariant predictions from the SAR. Furthermore, the degree of scale dependence in turnover was negatively related to the degree of variance in the occupancy frequency distribution (OFD). These findings suggest that species turnover diverges from scale invariance, and as such pairwise turnover and the slope of the SAR are not redundant. Furthermore, models developed to explain the OFD should be linked with those developed to explain species turnover to achieve a more unified understanding of community structure.

Ecology, 93:294-302