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Local (within-sample/alpha) diversity is often implicated as a cause of success or failure of a microbial community. However, the relationships between diversity and emergent properties of a community, such as its stability, productivity, or invasibility, are much more nuanced. In the submitted manuscript, I argue that diversity without context provides limited insights into the mechanisms underpinning community patterns. I provide examples from traditional and microbial ecology to discuss common complications and assumptions about within-sample diversity that may prevent us from digging deeper into the more specific mechanisms underpinning community outcomes. I suggest that measurement of diversity should serve as a starting point for further inquiry of ecological mechanisms rather than an “answer” to community outcomes.
This perspectives piece has already undergone peer review at a journal, which suggested a few revisions. This piece was revised according to those helpful reviewer comments, and it was re-submitted to that journal for reconsideration. This is the first version submitted to PeerJ Preprints.
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