Quantifying secondary succession: a method for all sites?

Abstract

Quantifying and documenting succession has been a challenge to ecologists for many years. A variety of measures have been generated but do not seem to have been widely adopted. We propose the use of an intuitive and quantifiable measure that is amenable to both model building and hypothesis testing, and apply the method to a long-term, ongoing succession project in southeastern Ontario. We compare our measure with turnover rate (Diamond 1969) and lambda (Shugart and Hett 1973). We found that although these measures can determine when change within the community is occurring, the nature of this change and the resultant composition of the community is not readily gleaned from the measure. Our measure, by grouping plants as either ‘early’ or ‘late’, allows the relative composition of the community to be understood with a single number. The benefit of using an aggregate measure such as ours, is that a variety of questions can be examined, such as ‘when will a community revert to its original composition following fire?’ As an example, we utilized our measure on a post-fire succession data set from northern Montana. The results estimate that sites will take anywhere from 3 to 100 years to return to their pre-fire composition, based on current environmental conditions.

References

  1. Anand, M. 2000. The fundamentals of vegetation change: complexity rules. Acta Biotheoretica 48: 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Anand, M. and G.W. Heil. 2000. Analysis of a recovery process: Dwingelose Heide revisited. Community Ecology 1: 65–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Anand, M. and L. Orloci. 1997. Chaotic dynamics in a multispecies community. Ecological and Environmental Statistics 4: 337–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Armstrong, H. and D. Bullock. 2003. Stock grazing in woodland -Part 1. Biotype 24:2–5.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bach, C.E. 1994. Effects of a specialist herbivore (Altica subplicata) on Salix cordata and sand dune succession. Ecological Monographs 64: 423–445.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Blatt, S.E., A.A. Crowder and R. Harmsen. (in press) Patterns of secondary succession in old-field communities in southeastern Ontario. Plant Ecology.

  7. Blatt, S.E., J.A. Janmaat and R. Harmsen. 2001. Modelling succession to include an herbivore effect. Ecological Modelling 139:123–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Brown, V.K., M. Jepsen, M. and C.W.D. Gibson. 1988. Insect her bivory: effects on early old-field succession demonstrated by chemical exclusion methods. Oikos 52:293–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Clements, F. E. 1916. Plant succession: an analysis of the development of vegetation. Technical Report Publication 242, Carnegie Institute of Washington.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  10. Connell, J. R. and R.O. Slatyer. 1977. Mechanisms of succession in natural communities and their role in community stability and organization. American Naturalist 111:1119–1144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Crowder, A.A. 1986. The vegetation of the Kingston region. Bluebill 33:37–40. 45.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Crowder, A. and R. Harmsen. 1998. Notes on forest succession in old fields in Southeastern Ontario: the woody species. Canadian Field Naturalist 112:410–418.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Diamond, J.M. 1969. Avifaunal equilibria and species turnover rates on the Channel Islands of California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 64: 57–63.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Fink, A., J. Kosecoff, M. Chassin and R. H. Brook. 1984. Consensus methods: characteristics and guidelines for use. Amer. J. Public Health 14:979–983.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Frye, R.J. 1978. Structural dynamics of early old-field succession on the New Jersey Piedmont: a comparative approach. Ph.D. Thesis, Rutgers University.

  16. Geomatics-International. 1995. Management option for old-field sites in southern Ontario. Guidelines and literature review. Technical Report TR-009, Southern Region Science and Technology Transfer Unit.

  17. Glowacinski, Z. and O. Järvinen. 1975. Rate of secondary succession in forest bird communities. Omis Scandinavica 6: 33–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Grosshans, R.E. and N.C. Kenkel. 1997. Dynamics of emergent vegetation along natural gradients of water depth and salinity in a prairie marsh: delayed influences of competition. UFS (Delta Marsh) Annual Report 32: 83–93.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Ihaka, R. and R. Gentleman. 1996. R - A language for data analysis and graphics. Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics 5:299–314.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Jassby, A. D. and C. R. Goldman. 1974. A quantitative measure of succession rate and its application to the phytoplankton of lakes. American Naturalist 108: 688–693.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Leps, J. 1987. Vegetation dynamics in early old field succession: a quantitative approach. Vegetatio 72:95–102.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Margalef, R. 1968. Perspectives in Ecological Theory. University of Chicago Press, Illinois, USA.

    Google Scholar 

  23. McBrien, H., R. Harmsen and A. Crowder. 1983. A case of insect grazing affecting plant succession. Ecology 65:1035–1039.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Monte, J.A. 1973. The successional convergence of vegetation from grassland and bare soil on the Piedmont of New Jersey. William L. Hutcheson Memorial Forest Bulletin 3: 3–13.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Morton, J.K. and J. M. Venn. 1990. A checklist of the flora of Ontario: Vascular plants. University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Myster, R.W. and S. T A. Pickett. 1994. A comparison of rate of succession over 18 years in 10 contrasting old fields. Ecology 75: 387–392.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Odum, E. 1969. The strategy of ecosystem development. Science 164:262–270.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Phillips, E.A. 1959. Methods of Vegetation Study. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Pickett, S.T.A. 1982. Population patterns through twenty years of old-field succession. Vegetatio 49:45–59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Pickett, S.T.A. 1989. Space-for-time substitution as an alternative to long-term studies. In: E. Likens (ed.), Long-term Studies in Ecology: Approaches and Alternatives. Springer, New York, pp. 110–135.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  31. Scott, D., J.S. Robertson and W.J. Archie. 1990. Plant dynamics of New Zealand tussock grassland infested with Hieracium pilosella 11. Transition matrices of vegetation changes. Journal of Applied Ecology 27: 235–241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Shugart, H.H. and J.M. Hett. 1973. Succession: similarities of species turnover rates. Science 180: 1379–1380.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Smartt, P.F.M., S.E. Meacock and J.M. Lambert. 1974. Investigations into the properties of quantitative vegetational data: I. Pilot study. Journal of Ecology 62: 735–759.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Stickney, P.F. and R.B. Campbell, Jr. 2000. Data Base for Early Post-fire Succession in Northern Rocky Mountain Forests. General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-61-CD. United States Department of Agriculture - Forest Service - RockyMountain Research Station.

  35. Tansley, A.G. 1935. The use and abuse of vegetational concepts and terms. Ecology 16: 284–307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Thorhallsdottir, T.E. 1990. The dynamics of a grassland community: A simultaneous investigation of spatial and temporal heterogeneity at various scales. Journal of Ecology 78: 884–908.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Watkins, A.J. and J.B. Wilson. 1994. Plant community struture, and its relation to the vertical complexity of communities: dominance/diversity and spatial rank consistency. Oikos 70: 91–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Wildi, O. and M. Schütz. 2000. Reconstruction of a long-term recovery process from pasture to forest. Community Ecology 1: 25–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Zar, J.H. 1984. Biostatistical Analysis. (2nd edition.) Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the numerous students who assisted in the collection of the data set and A. Crowder and L. Aarssen for consultation regarding the ‘early’ species. Insightful and helpful comments were received from M. Anand and anonymous reviewers who criticised earlier drafts of this manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. E. Blatt.

Rights and permissions

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Blatt, S.E., Janmaat, J.A. & Harmsen, R. Quantifying secondary succession: a method for all sites?. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 4, 141–156 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.4.2003.2.3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Lambda
  • Old-field community
  • Post-fire succession
  • Secondary succession
  • Succession ratio
  • Turnover rate