Ecological Succession in a Changing World

Cynthia Chang and Ben Turner are the guest editors for our latest special feature: Ecological Succession in a Changing World. Cynthia and Ben tell us more about their special feature and the inspiration behind it, below. 


There is no doubt that succession is a foundation of ecology. However, when ecologists talk about succession, it often seems to be in a historical context. This has caused some to ask, “Is succession passé?” The goal of our special feature is to answer with a resounding “No!” and place succession research in a contemporary context, highlighting its relevance in modern ecological theory and pressing applied issues such as global change and restoration research.

107.2This motivated us to organize a symposium at the Ecological Society of America conference in August 2017, to highlight how studying succession brings new insights into community assembly theory, plant-belowground interactions, and restoration and global change research.

This Journal of Ecology special feature is an expanded result of these efforts. The collection of papers represent a flavor of all the different kinds of contemporary work currently being done on succession. They represent a range of biomes and ecosystems, including everything from tropical forests, volcanic landscapes, glacier retreats, grasslands, and old-fields.

This special feature presents 11 articles and an editorial that encompass 4 main themes:

1. Generalizations about succession: Prach & Walker, Chang et al., Fischer et al., and Clark et al. provide novel conclusions regarding post-disturbance successional trajectories.

2. Influence of dispersal limitation and habitat size on succession: Makoto & Wilson, van Breugel et al., and Liu et al. show how succession research can be applied to understanding restoration efforts, the effects of habitat fragmentation, as well as community response to global climate change.

3. Functional trait dynamics over the course of succession: Duffin et al. show how functional trait change over the course of succession can help ecologists understand community dynamics during ecosystem development.

4. Influence of belowground community interactions on succession: Recent advances in metagenomics allow us to better understand linkages between plant and belowground community feedbacks over the course of succession. Turner et al., Koziol & Bever, and Teste & Laliberté showcase new insights into the important role of belowground communities.

ecologicalsuccession

Read the special feature editorial: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.13132

Overall, these studies highlight the relevance of succession to modern ecological theory and novel ways for succession research to be applied to important societal issues in a rapidly changing world. Our hope is that this special issue not only highlights the continued value and relevance of successional research, but also encourages future research to be better integrated into relevant global change issues.

Cynthia Chang (University of Washington, Bothell, USA) and Ben Turner (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama)


Read the latest issue of Journal of Ecology online, including Cynthia and Ben’s special feature: Ecological Succession in a Changing World

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