Forest Succession and Gap Dynamics

Authored by: Rebecca A. Montgomery , Lee E. Frelich

Routledge Handbook of Forest Ecology

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415735452
eBook ISBN: 9781315818290
Adobe ISBN: 9781317816447


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Succession is a foundational concept in forest ecology. While succession has been defined variously, the most common definition is the sequence of communities or species that successively replace each other through time after a disturbance. The term is also used to describe the process of change itself. Many include change in forest and community structure and system-level properties such as diversity and productivity in their definition. Succession can be divided into two major types: primary succession, change that occurs on a previously unvegetated site, and secondary succession, change that occurs after disturbance to an existing ecosystem. In secondary succession, biological legacies left by past vegetation remain and influence succession. This chapter focuses on secondary succession, as it is the most common and widespread in forested ecosystems. We use a broad definition of succession discussing compositional, structural and system-level change. We also discuss management strategies for forested ecosystems that are based on principles of ecological succession and challenges associated with global change.

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