Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 307–317 | Cite as

Community Completeness: Linking Local and Dark Diversity within the Species Pool Concept

  • Meelis PärtelEmail author
  • Robert Szava-Kovats
  • Martin Zobel


Biodiversity of ecological communities has been examined widely. However, comparisons of observed species richness are limited because they fail to reveal what part of the differences are caused by natural variation in species pool size and what part is due to dark diversity – the absence of suitable species from a species pool. In other words, conventional biodiversity inventories do not convey information about how complete local plant communities are. We therefore propose the community completeness concept – a new perspective on the species pool framework. In order to ascertain community completeness, we need to estimate the extent of dark diversity, for which several methods are under development. We recommend the Community Completeness Index based on a log-ratio (or logistic) expression: ln(observed richness/dark diversity). This metric offers statistical advantages over other methods (e.g. the proportion of observed richness from the species pool). We discuss how community completeness can be related to long-term and successional community stability, landscape properties and disturbance patterns as well as to a variety of biotic interactions within and among trophic levels. The community completeness concept is related to but distinctive from the alpha-beta-gamma diversity approach and the community saturation phenomenon. The Community Completeness Index is a valuable metric for comparing biodiversity of different ecosystems for nature conservation. It can be used to measure the success of ecological restoration and vulnerability to invasion by alien species. In summary, community completeness is an interface between observed local observed species richness and dark diversity, which can be useful both in theoretical and applied biodiversity research.


Assembly rules Biodiversity Biotic interactions Dispersal Evolution Species richness 



This study was supported by the European Union 7th framework project SCALES (FP7-226852), European Regional Development Fund (Center of Excellence FIBIR) and the University of Tartu (SF0180095s08, SF0180098s08).


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meelis Pärtel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert Szava-Kovats
    • 1
  • Martin Zobel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany, Institute of Ecology and Earth SciencesUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia

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