The Benguela, California, and Humboldt represent three of the major eastern boundary upwelling ecosystems in the world. Upwelling ecosystems are highly productive, and this productivity forms the base of the food chain, potentially leading to ecosystems similar in trophic structure and diversity among upwelling regions. Here we compare the biological and trophic structure of rocky intertidal communities in each of these major upwelling regions. Our comparison includes a fourth region, New Zealand, which spans a similar latitudinal range, and experiences intermittent upwelling. The influence of oceanographic conditions on these communities was evaluated by using the long-term mean and standard deviation of satellite-based sea surface temperature (SST). Large differences emerged in the taxonomic richness in each of these systems, with California as the most and the Humboldt as the least taxonomically rich. Across all regions, richness tended to decrease progressively from lower trophic levels (macrophytes) to higher trophic levels (carnivores), and richness was inversely correlated with the proportion of variance in SST contained in the seasonal cycle, suggesting that strongly seasonal, predictable environments are relatively low in diversity. The functional and trophic structures were remarkably similar across these four regions of the world. Macrophytes were slightly dominant over filter-feeders in terms of space occupancy in all regions except the Benguela. Densities of herbivorous grazers were greatest in California and Benguela and far outnumbered carnivore densities in all regions. Despite some similarities, the overall structure of the communities from these regions differed significantly supporting the hypothesis that the biological and ecological consequences of similar physical forcing mechanisms (e.g. upwelling) are likely to be context-dependent.