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Ecological succession

Ecological succession, a fundamental concept in ecology, refers to more-or-less predictable and orderly changes in the composition or structure of an ecological community.

Succession may be initiated either by formation of new, unoccupied habitat (e.g., a lava flow or a severe landslide) or by some form of disturbance (e.g. fire, severe windthrow, logging) of an existing community.

The former case is often referred to as primary succession, the latter as secondary succession.

The trajectory of ecological change can be influenced by site conditions, by the interactions of the species present, and by more stochastic factors such as availability of colonists or seeds, or weather conditions at the time of disturbance.

Some of these factors contribute to predictability of successional dynamics; others add more probabilistic elements.

In general, communities in early succession will be dominated by fast-growing, well-dispersed species (opportunist, fugitive, or r-selected life-histories).

As succession proceeds, these species will tend to be replaced by more competitive (k-selected) species.

Note:   The above text is excerpted from the Wikipedia article "Ecological succession", which has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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