The Species–Area Relation (SAR), which describes the increase in the number of species S with increasing area A, is under intense scrutiny in contemporary ecology, in particular to probe its reliability in predicting the number of species going extinct as a direct result of habitat loss. Here, we focus on the island SAR, which is measured across a set of disjoint habitat patches, and we argue that the SAR portrays an average trend around which fluctuations are to be expected due to the stochasticity of community dynamics within the patches, external perturbations, and habitat heterogeneity across different patches. This probabilistic interpretation of the SAR, though already implicit in the theory of island biogeography and manifest in the scatter of data points in plots of empirical SAR curves, has not been investigated systematically from the theoretical point of view. Here, we show that the two main contributions to SAR fluctuations, which are due to community dynamics within the patches and to habitat heterogeneity between different patches, can be decoupled and analyzed independently. To investigate the community dynamics contribution to SAR fluctuations, we explore a suite of theoretical models of community dynamics where the number of species S inhabiting a patch emerges from diverse ecological and evolutionary processes, and we compare stationary predictions for the coefficient of variation of S, i.e. the fluctuations of S with respect to the mean. We find that different community dynamics models diverge radically in their predictions. In island biogeography and in neutral frameworks, where fluctuations are only driven by the stochasticity of diversification and extinction events, relative fluctuations decay when the mean increases. Computational evidence suggests that this result is robust in the presence of competition for space or resources. When species compete for finite resources, and mass is introduced as a trait determining species’ birth, death and resource consumption rates based on empirical allometric scalings, relative fluctuations do not decay with increasing mean S due to the occasional introduction of new species with large resource demands causing mass extinctions in the community. Given this observation, we also investigate the contribution of external disturbance events to fluctuations of S in neutral community dynamics models and compare this scenario with the community dynamics in undisturbed non-neutral models. Habitat heterogeneity within a single patch, in the context of metapopulation models, causes variability in the number of coexisting species which proves negligible with respect to that caused by the stochasticity of the community dynamics. The second contribution to SAR fluctuations, which is due to habitat heterogeneity among different patches, introduces corrections to the coefficient of variation of S. Most importantly, inter-patches heterogeneity introduces a constant, lower bound on the relative fluctuations of S equal to the coefficient of variation of a habitat variable describing the heterogeneity among patches. Because heterogeneity across patches is inevitably present in natural ecosystems, we expect that the relative fluctuations of S always tend to a constant in the limit of large mean S or large patch area A, with contributions from community dynamics, inter-patches heterogeneity or both. We provide a theoretical framework for modelling these two contributions and we show that both can affect significantly the fluctuations of the SAR.