Inferring local ecological processes amid species pool influences

Resolving contingencies in community ecology requires comparative studies of local communities along broadscale environmental gradients and in different biogeographic regions. However, comparisons of local ecological processes among regions require a synthetic understanding of how the species pool of potential community members influences the structure of ecological communities. Here, we outline an integrative approach for quantifying local ecological processes while explicitly accounting for species pool influences. Specifically, we highlight the utility of combining geographically replicated local studies, null models of community structure, and ecologically explicit definitions of the species pool as a means to compare predominant ecological processes among regions. By uniting concepts and tools from community ecology and macroecology, this approach might facilitate synthesis and resolve many perceived ecological contingencies.