Ecological Succession and Community Dynamics



“Ecological Succession” is an ordered progression of structural and compositional changes in communities toward an eventual unchanging condition, the climax community 1 –3. The term “Community” is used in two ways 4. The “Abstract Community” refers to an abstract group of organisms that recurs on the landscape, a definition, which usually carries with it an implication of a level of integration among its parts that in extreme could be called organismal or quasi-organismal; the “Concrete Community” concept refers to the collection of organisms found at a specific place and time. These terms and their meanings are topics of significant debate among ecologists, both historically and today 5, 6. These differences in the meaning and cause of ecological succession strongly affect the formulation of policies for ecosystems management and restoration.


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These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Abstract community

A group of organisms that recurs on the landscape with an implication of a level of integration among its parts that in extreme could be called organismal or quasi-organismal (see: Concrete Community).


A space-for-time substitution in which the successional vegetation is ordered in a regular fashion. An example would be the series of vegetation at the foot of a receding glacier or a series of sand dunes ordered in regularly aged series.

Clementsian succession

An explanation of succession emphasizing the attributes of the community as if it functioned like a single living organism (see: Abstract Community).

Climax community

An ecological community associated with a particular climate and in a state of dynamic equilibrium with the climate. The American ecologist, F.E. Clements, designated the climax community as the endpoint of ecological succession for a given climate condition and noted the common Greek root κλίμα (clima) or inclination, in both climax and climate as indicating their close relationship.

Concrete community

The collection of organisms found at a specific place and time (see: Abstract Community).

Gleasonian succession theory

An explanation of succession emphasizing the importance of the attributes of individual organisms as the fundamental basis.

Indicator species

Plants or animals whose presence implies the past or present conditions at a given location.


The concept that one mature vegetation will eventually be produced by successional processes in a given region.


The concept that multiple mature, stable-vegetation types can develop from the successional processes operating in a given region.


A school of vegetation science emphasizing the classification of vegetation.

Time-for-space substitution

The collection of vegetation data from different locations at which succession has been initiated at different times in the past to piece together the pattern of succession.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesThe University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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