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Nat Ecol Evol. 2017 Aug;1(8):1107-1115. doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0225-4. Epub 2017 Jul 3.


Regional species diversity generally increases with primary productivity whereas local diversity–productivity relationships are highly variable. This scale-dependence of the biodiversity–productivity relationship highlights the importance of understanding the mechanisms that govern variation in species composition among local communities, which is known as β-diversity. Hypotheses to explain changes in β-diversity with productivity invoke multiple mechanisms operating at local and regional scales, but the relative importance of these mechanisms is unknown. Here we show that changes in the strength of local density-dependent interactions within and among tree species explain changes in β-diversity across a subcontinental-productivity gradient. Stronger conspecific relative to heterospecific negative density dependence in more productive regions was associated with higher local diversity, weaker habitat partitioning (less species sorting), and homogenization of community composition among sites (lower β-diversity). Regional processes associated with changes in species pools had limited effects on β-diversity. Our study suggests that systematic shifts in the strength of local interactions within and among species might generally contribute to some of the most prominent but poorly understood gradients in global biodiversity.


Accepted author manuscript version of article published in Nat Ecol Evol 2017 Aug;1(8):1107-1115.

Data availability: The FIA datasets analysed during the current study are freely available from the United States Forest Service at The NPP dataset is available from the University of Montana (MODIS product used: MOD17A3_NPP) at, and the climate data are available from AdaptWest at

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