, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 131-140

First online:

Succession: A population process

  • Robert K. PeetAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, University of North Carolina
  • , Norman L. ChristensenAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, Duke University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Recent critical reviews suggest the need for a reductionistic approach to the study of secondary plant succession. We propose viewing succession as the result of the underlying plant population dynamics. This approach is being developed using nearly 50 years of permanent sample plot records.

After initial establishment Pinus taeda shows an exponential depletion with stands of various densities conforming to the reciprocal yield relationship. Uneven-aged hardwoods also show exponential depletion. Canopy disturbance can enhance the establishment process, though severe disturbance and the consequent abundant regeneration can lead again to dense, even-aged stands with low levels of establishment. These results suggest a general pattern of forest development wherein establishment is initially important, but is quickly replaced by mortality as the dominant process when the dense, even-sized stand starts to thin. Eventually, failing additional disturbance, natural mortality will again open the canopy allowing development of a balance between establishment, and mortality.


Forests Mortality North Carolina Plant demography Succession Thinning Vegetation