Local species diversity may be determined by processes operating locally, such as disturbance, predation and competition, or by regional processes, such as environmental structuring or history. Classical theory focusing on competition predicts that the species combining to form communities will be less similar to each other than they would be if they were assembled at random from a regional species pool. Theory focusing on environmental structuring predicts that species will be more similar to each other than expected by chance. A randomisation test that determines the extent to which local species lists represent random selections from a regional list, based on the average relatedness between species, was applied to data held in the MacroBen database. Little or no evidence was found for species lists of whole faunas at any scale being random subsets of species lists at larger scales. Species tend to be more closely related to each other than would be expected if they were assembled at random. Thus marine soft-sediment macrofauna are not locally assembled at random from regional species pools and it is likely that regional processes determine the assembly of communities. Focusing on the most abundant class within the macrofauna, a different pattern emerges, in that there is a much stronger tendency for local polychaete composition to be a random subset from regional pools at all scales. Thus it is not possible to determine whether local polychaete diversity is independent of both local and regional processes, or determined by a combination of both acting antagonistically.