Foundation species create complex habitats in which associated organisms find refuge from biological and physical stress; these foundation species are thus fundamental to the structure and resilience of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In the present article, we develop an approach to understanding foundation species' effects in communities that are maintained not by a single foundation species, as has been the focus of research to date, but by multiple, co-occurring foundation species. Using examples from diverse ecosystems, we illustrate the prevalence of multiple foundation-species assemblages and hypothesize that the nature of foundation-species interactions has important consequences for community structure. We predict where positive and negative interactions among foundation species will occur and suggest that they organize communities hierarchically in nested or adjacent assemblages that underlie landscape-scale patterns in species distribution. Elucidating the predictable nature of foundation-species interactions may be key to understanding and managing the biodiversity and functioning of many ecosystems.
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