Self-Design vs. Designer Theories and Wetland Restoration and Creation

  • Arnold van der ValkEmail author
Reference work entry


Wetland restoration and succession are essentially attempts to accelerate and direct succession. However, competing theories about the nature of succession exist. One theory developed by F. E. Clements postulated that all the vegetation in an area would eventually reach a final, stable stage that he called the climax. This deterministic succession theory, now called the self-design theory, has been adopted in numerous restoration/creation projects. It implies that environmental conditions are the main determinant of the vegetation that develops. An alternative theory of succession, associated with H. A. Gleason, emphasizes that the characteristics of each plant species (e.g., seed dispersal potential) and contingent environmental factors (e.g., disturbances) have a major influence on the composition of the vegetation that develops and that there is no fixed end point. This individualistic theory of succession in the restoration field is known as the designer theory. Most plant ecologists today are advocates of the designer theory.


Climax F. E. Clements H. A. Gleason Succession Wetland vegetation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal BiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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