Community Ecology

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 5–12 | Cite as

Vegetation dynamics and plant constraints: separating generalities and specifics

  • R. van HulstEmail author


Vegetation dynamics is a stochastic process of species replacement after disturbance. It occurs because individual species are limited by general constraints and trade-offs. As these constraints and trade-offs are becoming better known, we understand more about the relationships between disturbance dynamics, species pools, and vegetation dynamics. This paper provides a summary of recent work on plant scaling and ecological trade-offs, and explores its implications for vegetation dynamics. Those aspects of succession that are predictable — given the local species complement — can be understood as consequences of these general patterns and constraints. Several are explored in this paper. The inherently stochastic nature of the process derives from the disturbance dynamics that forces it, from the sampling processes that are responsible for selecting potential invaders, and from the chance processes involved in species interactions. The dynamics of species that invade established communities is the least understood but potentially the most crucial aspect of vegetation dynamics. The relation of community invasion to gap creation and to scaling constraints is briefly discussed.


Constraints Scaling Succession Trade-offs Vegetation dynamics 



Relative growth rate.


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2000

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesBishop’s UniversityLennoxvilleCanada

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