Ecological succession

Succession after disturbance: a boreal forest one year (left) and two years (right) after a wildfire.

Ecological succession is the process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time. The time scale can be decades (for example, after a wildfire), or even millions of years after a mass extinction.[1]

The community begins with relatively few pioneering plants and animals and develops through increasing complexity until it becomes stable or self-perpetuating as a climax community. The "engine" of succession, the cause of ecosystem change, is the impact of established organisms upon their own environments. A consequence of living is the sometimes subtle and sometimes overt alteration of one's own environment.[2]

It is a phenomenon or process by which an ecological community undergoes more or less orderly and predictable changes following a disturbance or the initial colonization of a new habitat. Succession may be initiated either by formation of new, unoccupied habitat, such as from a lava flow or a severe landslide, or by some form of disturbance of a community, such as from a fire, severe windthrow, or logging. Succession that begins in new habitats, uninfluenced by pre-existing communities is called primary succession, whereas succession that follows disruption of a pre-existing community is called secondary succession.

Succession was among the first theories advanced in ecology. Ecological succession was first documented in the Indiana Dunes of Northwest Indiana and remains at the core of much ecological science.[3]

  1. ^ Sahney, S.; Benton, M.J. (2008). "Recovery from the most profound mass extinction of all time". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 275 (1636): 759–65. doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1370. PMC 2596898. PMID 18198148.
  2. ^ "The Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington". The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved Oct 10, 2013.
  3. ^ Smith, S. & Mark, S. (2009). The Historical Roots of the Nature Conservancy in the Northwest Indiana/Chicagoland Region: From Science to Preservation. The South Shore Journal, 3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-01. Retrieved 2015-11-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)