Community Succession

Chaparral succession following some form of disturbance such as fire is somewhat different than in many other ecological communities. Generally all of the species present before fire in chaparral will be present in the first growing season after fire, and thus chaparral has been described as being 'auto-successional', meaning it replaces itself. In the absence of disturbance chaparral composition appears to remain somewhat static with relatively few changes in species composition or colonization by new species. In part because of the rather static nature of chaparral, old stands have been described with rather pejorative terms such as 'senescent', 'senile', 'decadent', and 'trashy', and considered to be very unproductive with little annual growth. This notion derives largely from wildlife studies done in the mid-twentieth century that concluded, due to the height of shrubs in older stands, there was very little browse production for wildlife. However, if total stand productivity is used as a measure, very old stands of chaparral appear to be very productive and are not justly described as senescent. Also, these older communities appear to retain their resilience to fires and other disturbances, as illustrated by the fact that recovery after fire (see below) in ancient stands (150 years old) recover as well as much younger stands.

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