Ecological processes that govern change

9.2.1 Succession and community assembly

It is clear from the previous section that major long-term changes in forests have been brought about by changes in climate, geological movements and by the evolution of the plants and animals themselves. In this section, we begin to look at the ecological processes that govern the changes we see in the forests now around us.

Succession is a significant source of change in forests. This starts from either completely bare ground with no organic components (primary succession) -e.g. glacial moraine, bare rock (but can also include open water), or from open ground with some living components (secondary succession) whose previous vegetation cover has been disturbed, for example by a forest fire or wind storm. Succession is then the non-seasonal directional change in the types and numbers of organisms present in a particular habitat over a period of time as it develops from bare ground to a final vegetation type.

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