Describe the process of ecological succession

Explanation of Ecological succession Bare ground and pioneer
September 22, 2014 – 04:05 pm
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Ecological succession is the gradual process by which ecosystems change and develop over time.

For example, a bare patch of ground will not stay bare. It will rapidly be colonized by a variety of plants.

A recently cleared patch of ground (in Britain).

The same ground 2 years later,
now covered in grasses and low flowering plants.

In the process of succession, the species present in an area will gradually change.

Succession takes place because the environmental conditions in a particular place change over time. Each species is adapted to thrive and compete best against other species under a very specific set of environmental conditions. If these conditions change, then the existing species will be replaced by a new set of species which are better adapted to the new conditions.

As an example, the environmental conditions present on the bare patch of ground above would have been quite different 2 years later. Some of these differences are highlighted below.

Two Years Later

No plant competition for light, space, nutrients or water.

Soil mobile and liable to erosion and loss.

A more extreme surface microclimate because the bare soil both absorbs and reflects heat more than soil covered in vegetation.

A drier environment because there is no plant cover to hold moisture above ground and little humus to hold it in the soil.

Lower nutrient levels in the soil.

Intense plant competition for space and other resources.

Soil bound by roots and plant cover.

The plant cover provides a certain amount of ground insulation from extremes of temperature. There are now also a variety of microclimates within the vegetation.

Plant cover and increasing humus levels help to retain water.

The nutrient levels in the soil will have increased.

The bare ground conditions favour pioneer plant species. These are often species which grow best where there is little competition for space and resources.

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