Ecological Succession and its 5 types

Succession means the act or process of following in order or sequence or succeeding to the rights or duties of another. It involves succeeding a person to his rights in a property, the rules of distribution of property in case a person dies without making a will is defined by every Law of succession. These rules provide for a class of persons and percentage of property that will be inherited by such persons. The property that passes in this fashion is called succession.

What is ecological succession?
Ecological succession" is the process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time. Within any community some species may become less abundant over some time, or they may even disappear from the ecosystem.Similarly, over some time interval, other species within the community may become more abundant, or new species may appear in the community from adjacent ecosystems, new species gradually learn to live within the new habitat. This observed change over time, what is living in a particular ecosystem is "ecological succession".  

Ecological Succession

Causes of ecological succession:
Ecosystems are not static. They are dynamic environmental systems that are continuously changing. In a given ecosystem there are a set of environmental conditions, by which those species can grow efficiently and produce their offspring that will become the most abundant organisms. As long as the ecosystem's set of environmental conditions remains constant, those species are able to live & flourish under such environment.

Types of ecological succession:
Classification based on time of succession:

Primary succession: 
This type of succession starts on a substance where there are no living organisms. The living organisms that establish themselves for the first time on such a surface are called pioneers or primary colonizers. It is called primary community. These pioneer plants are then dominated and often replaced by plants better adapted to those conditions, these plants include vascular plants like grasses and some shrubs that are able to live in thin soils that are often mineral based. Example: primary succession takes place after a volcano has occurred. The resulting barren land is first colonized by pioneer plants which cover with durable surface later, less hardy plants, such as hardwood trees.

Primary Succession

Secondary succession:
Here the succession starts on a substratum where there was living organism previously, but has disappeared due to some natural example: grass -> shrub -> trees -> oak hickory forest. Secondary succession is much more commonly observed and studied than primary succession. Common types of secondary succession include responses to natural disturbances such as fire, flood, and severe winds, and to human-caused disturbances such as logging and agriculture.

Secondary Succession

Classification based on cause:
1.      Autogenic succession: When the organisms of a community modify the environment in such a way that the community itself is replaced by a new one, the succession is called autogenic. 2.      Aerogenic succession: Here the causative factor behind succession is not the community itself but the physical surrounding.

Classification based on nutritional status:
1.      Autotrophic succession: In this type, the dominant organisms are the autotrophs; and it starts in an inorganic environment. 2.      Heterotrophic succession: Here the dominant organisms are heterotrophs; and it starts in an organic environment, where the energy and organic matter gradually decreases.

Plant and Animal succession:
The process of plant succession begins as soon as a land area capable of supporting plant life is formed. Natural vegetation of a particular location evolves in a series of steps involving different plant communities. The evolutionary process is known as plant succession. Plant succession usually begins with a simple community known as a pioneer community. The pioneer community and each successive community alter the environment in such a way to permit new communities to evolve at that site. These alterations of the environment include changes in site microclimate and soil conditions. A climax community is the result of a long period of plant succession. It usually exhibits a good deal of species diversity and thus is relatively stable system. Some examples:

  • accumulation of sand dunes at the edge of the ocean or  a lake
  • cooling of a lava flow

exposure of rock by a retreating glacier
An Article by : Prita Banerjee

Prita Banerjee

She has joined Srijee Innotech Pvt Ltd. as a Content Developer from Last week of June'2013. She has completed her MCA on July'2013 from Punjab Technical University. She has done her MCA final 6th SEM major project  in using C# on February'2013. She has done her graduation in 2007 with Zoology hons from Calcutta University..After completion of her graduation she worked at Project impact,Jadavpur University as Part time faculty of Computer fundamentals & Basic Programming. She also worked as a Project Tainee at NIVT,Kolkata from Aug'2012-Jan'2013...

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