Environmental Sieve Model of Wetland Succession

  • Arnold van der Valk
Reference work entry


In the first environmental sieve model, water level (standing water, no standing water) determined which species could become established and which would be extirpated at a given time in a wetland. Species attributes were used to predict what would happen to each species in a wetland as water levels changed. The three attributes used were: (1) life expectancy (annual, short-lived perennial, and perennial with vegetative growth), (2) seed dispersal (seeds present in seed bank, seeds had to be dispersed to wetland), and (3) seed germination requirements (seeds can germinate underwater or seeds can germinate only on wet soil). The model was tested successfully in a long-term, water manipulation study carried out in the Delta Marsh in Canada, the Marsh Ecology Research Project (MERP). More sophisticate versions of this type of model have been developed that can make quantitative predictions about changes in the composition of wetland vegetation over time.


Assembly rule model Succession Vegetation composition Vital attributes Water-level fluctuations 


  1. Egler FE. Vegetation science concepts I. Initial floristic composition. A factor in old-field development. Vegetatio. 1954;4:412–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Grime JP. Plant strategies and vegetation processes. Chichester: Wiley; 1979.Google Scholar
  3. Murkin HR, van der Valk AG, Clark WR, editors. Prairie wetland ecology: the contributions of the Marsh Ecology Research Program. Ames: Iowa State University Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  4. Noble IR, Slatyer RO. The use of vital attributes to predict successional changes in plant communities subject to recurrent disturbances. Vegetatio. 1980;43:5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Toth LA, van der Valk AG. Predictability of flood pulse driven assembly rules for restoration of a floodplain plant community. Wetl Ecol Manag. 2012;20:59–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. van der Valk AG. Succession in wetlands: a Gleasonian approach. Ecology. 1981;62:688–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. van der Valk AG. Development of post-disturbance vegetation in prairie wetlands. In: Johnson EA, Miyanishi K, editors. Plant disturbance ecology. Burlington: Academic Press; 2007. p. 341–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. van der Valk AG. Origins and development of ecology. In: de Laplante K, Brown B, KA P, editors. Handbook of the philosophy of science VII. Philosophy of ecology. Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2011. p. 25–48.Google Scholar
  9. van der Valk AG. The biology of freshwater wetlands. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2012.Google Scholar
  10. Weiher E, Keddy PA. Assembly rules in ecological communities: perspectives, advances, retreats. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© 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

Personalised recommendations