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Succession is the progression of plant and animal species in an area from smaller simpler organisms to larger more complex organisms, eventually leading to a climax community.

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Introduction

Succession Introduction Succession is the progression of plant and animal species in an area from smaller simpler organisms to larger more complex organisms, eventually leading to a climax community. The climax community is reached when the species found in the area remain constant over time with few or no species being wiped out or starting to grow- there is an equal balance between births and deaths and gross primary productivity is the same as total respiration. The climax community exists as long as biotic and abiotic factors allow. Things which could devastate a climax community include forest fires and drastic changes in climate, or biotic factors like Dutch elm disease, a fungus transmitted by European and American bark beetles which killed millions of elm trees in the 1980's. The climax community arises in stages called seral stages. There are two types of succession, primary and secondary. Primary succession A primary succession is one that takes place in an area or piece of land which was not previously populated by other organisms. ...read more.

Middle

As the lichens and mosses die, they leave behind a small layer of dead organic material which is sufficient to provide more tufted mosses and even some small herbaceous plants with enough water and minerals. As these species flourish, the light to the lichens and mosses is blocked and they are eliminated. As more plants die, the soil gets thicker and is colonised by bacteria which speed up the rate at which nutrients are released into the soil from humus. Small animals may be able to become established in this ground cover, providing a food source for higher carnivores. All the time, larger plants block the light to the smaller ones beneath them. Therefore most of the smaller plants are eliminated as the succession progresses. As the plants get larger, larger animals can find shelter in them and settle there. If abiotic factors allow, bushes and trees can grow and a climax forest appears. Succession on sand dunes A sand dune begins to form when sand being blown inland by the wind accumulates round small plants on the beach. ...read more.

Conclusion

the other being that some seeds or spores from the last plant community can still be present in the soil after the community is destroyed. A good example of secondary succession can be observed on abandoned farmland in temperate regions. The farmland was at one time probably a forest which was cut down to grow crops or graze animals on. After the land is abandoned, small weeds appear which give way to larger plants, bushes and shrubs, which are then superseded by larger trees and deciduous woodland. This whole succession can take place in just over a hundred years, whilst the succession to woodland in a freshwater lake can take up to ten thousand years. Conclusion: All landscapes have resulted from a succession of some sort and complex organisms would not be able to survive without the land first being made habitable by smaller plants with adaptations to survive in hostile conditions. Animal succession relies directly on plant succession to take place, since without the smaller plants as a source of food and shelter, the smaller animals would not be able to become established. ...read more.

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A good summary of the key features of succession with some helpful definitions of terms. The two main types are described but more specific examples of plant species associated with serial stages would have improved the quality. The sand dune and salt marsh succession sections are a little superficial.

Marked by teacher Adam Roberts 20/08/2013

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