The development of climax communities in an ecosystem is dependent on succession. It is a natural cycle that results in the equilibrium of the ecosystem. A disturbance creates a severe change in an ecosystem, often reducing an area to bare dirt. Shortly after the disturbance, pioneer species will invade the area and settle, who are generally very easily dispersed, will colonize quickly, and reproduce greatly. After this initial colonization, intermediate species will establish themselves in the ecosystem, and soon they will eliminate the pioneers.
Over the course of many years, the final climax species will establish themselves in the once-disturbed area, and an equilibrium (steady-state) will be reached (Brower, 1998). This is called secondary succession, because succession took place following the disturbance of an already-established community. A primary succession occurs in an area that has never been habitat for biota, such as a bare rock (Ricklefs, 2007).
A mechanism that would help succeeding species is “facilitation-” species change the area in a way that facilitates the establishment of new species. For instance, a mowed tree corridor for power lines in the Northeast is pioneered by small ground-covering plants that help retain moisture and shade to the soil (abiotic components), which are beneficial to the next influx of shrubs (Countryman, 2005). A mechanism that hinders the ecosystem’s recovery is “inhibition,” in which climax species outcompete already-established species.
The shrubs (biotic components) will cast shade over already-established ground cover, and subsequently eliminate them. The “tolerance” mechanism allows any species to colonize without direct competition with each other, but eventually the climax species will become established due to their size – such as the maple and beech trees in the corridor. Overall, successive communities change a disturbed area into its natural diversified state. Succession is the key to the establishment of equilibrium in an ecosystem.
Ricklefs, R. E. (2007). The Economy of Nature (5th ed. ). New York: W. H. Freeman and Co. Countryman, W. D. (2005). Bangor Hydro 345 kV Project, Botanical Resources and Natural Communities. 20 May 2009. http://web. ead. anl. gov/interconnecteis/documents/docs/permit/Volume2_Sections7-10/Section9UnusualNaturalAreas/App9-2EasternMaine345kVRarePlantReport. pdf Brower, J. E. , Zar, J. H. , von Ende, C. N. (1998). Field and Laboratory Methods for General Ecology (4th ed. ). Boston: WCB McGraw-Hill.
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