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What is Ecological Succession?

Ecological succession is the study of how biological communities reassemble after natural or manmade disturbances (Chang and Tuner, 2019). Succession involves the gradual, directional, and cumulative change in species composition and community structure over time, and succession can take place in a variety of ways. There are five (5) different kinds of succession such as primary vs. secondary, allogenic vs. autogenic, cyclic vs. directional, progressive vs. retrogressive, chronosequential vs. toposequential. Furthermore, when succession occurs a new environment has to be formed and within this environment there are stages that a community must undergo for the community to reach stability, this is called the “sere”. Sere is the term for the process of change in which biotic communities are replaced and the physical environment is altered over time, the different communities that make up a sere are referred to as seral stages (Living Nature Web, 2017) and, the sequences of communities is from pioneer to climax. Pioneer community is the first community that is formed after succession, this community is composed of species that will change the area allowing other species to become established, examples of such species are lichens and mosses. In addition, due to their vast quantities of reproductive propagules and efficient routes of dissemination, pioneer species have a high rate of invasion (wind) (Living Nature Web, 2017), which allows pioneer species to have a high growth and colonization rate.

Seral communities are the next community that is formed, these species increase the species composition of the community overtime, these are the grasses, herbs, shrubs, and tree seedlings. Moreover, the species diversity starts to increase since more variety of species will introduce insects, birds, and small mammals, consequently the community becomes stable as a result. The last community that is formed is the climax community, climax community consist of species that will eventually dominate the environment since these species are long-lived, has lower dispersal rates, slow growth rates and low photosynthetic rate. Note that within this community the species composition has not change since it is stable and dynamic.

Finally, ecological succession is important. Ecological succession is critical for an ecosystem's growth and development, it kickstarts the colonization of new communities as well as the recolonization of communities that have been damaged by biotic and environmental conditions. As a result, organisms can learn to adapt to changes and live in a changing environment.

By Shana Kay Panton


Chang, C. C., & Turner, B. L. (2019). Ecological succession in a changing world. Journal of Ecology, 107(2), 503–509.

ECOLOGICAL SUCCESSION. (2017, October 9). Living Nature.

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