, Volume 146, Issue 1, pp 1-10

Dynamic and static views of succession: Testing the descriptive power of the chronosequence approach

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Abstract

Chronosequence and permanent plot studies are the two most common methods for evaluating successional dynamics in plant communities. We combined these two approaches by re-sampling an old-field chronosequence at Cedar Creek Natural History Area (Minnesota, USA) to: (1) measure rates of secondary succession; and (2) to test the ability of the chronosequence approach to predict actual successional dynamics over a 14-year survey interval. For each of 19 chronosequence fields we calculated four complimentary indices of succession rate for community changes that actually occurred within each of these fields between 1983 and 1997. We found that measures of compositional dissimilarity, species turnover, and the change rates of perennial and native species cover over this 14-year period were all negatively correlated with field age, indicating that the rate of successional change in these old-fields generally declines over time. We also found that data collected from the initial static chronosequence survey (1983) accurately predicted many of the observed changes in species abundance that occurred between 1983 and 1997, but was a poor predictor of changes in species richness. In general, chronosequence re-sampling confirmed the validity of using the chronosequence approach to infer basic patterns of successional change.