FRQ: Ecology Question
Ecological succession from a pioneer community to a climax community is an easy process to understand once you know each step. Ecological succession is the transition in the species composition of a biological community, often following ecological disturbance of the community. There are two types of ecological succession, primary and secondary. Primary succession is the establishment of a biological community in an area virtually barren of life, where there were originally no organisms and where soil has not yet formed. Secondary succession is a type of succession that occurs where an existing community has been cleared by some disturbance that leaves the soil intact. With primary succession, the first species to enter a barren area (like a new volcanic island or land left behind by a retreating glacier) is most likely an autotrophic prokaryote, called a pioneer species. Other pioneer species come into the “new” area and start forming communities. Next comes the primary consumers (herbivores) and then the secondary and tertiary consumers, which make this once barren land into a thriving community. This thriving community is called a climax community. The definition of a climax community is when a biological community of plants and animals, through the process of ecological succession, has reached a steady state. This equilibrium occurs because the climax community is composed of species that are best adapted to average conditions in that area. (This term is sometimes also applied in soil development.) It is a good thing if the area is modified, either by human or natural disturbances, because when new soil enters the climax community (for example) the pioneer plant species permit new plant species to grow; which in turn alter the environment and contribute to the community’s ecological succession. In ecological succession, there are three steps that contribute to the community’s development: species diversity and interactions,...
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