The Structure of Marine Communities Over Time: Colonization and Succession

  • Ivan Valiela
Part of the Springer Advanced Texts in Life Sciences book series (SATLIFE)


In the last chapter we were concerned with quantitative diurnal and seasonal changes of major components of marine communities. There is a third kind of change over time, largely in composition of species, that takes place when a new resource such as newly upwelled water or recently cleared rock surface is made available. This is the more or less orderly sequence of replacement of some species by others that occurs during colonization or succession. The concept of succession was developed in terrestrial ecosystems, and its characteristics have been summarized by Odum (1969). Many of the properties usually associated with succession are tautological (Peters, 1976). We will examine the most useful, less tautological properties applicable to marine systems.


Coral Reef Salt Marsh Rocky Shore Pioneer Species Early Succession 
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  1. In terrestrial ecology primary succession is the sequence of species that colonize a new substrate; secondary succession takes place on previously inhabited surfaces that have been cleared of biota by some disturbance.Google Scholar
  2. This seems typical of species of early succession. In terrestrial situations, palatability of plants of early succession is also greater than that of species typical of the later stages (Cates and Orians, 1975). Pioneer plants appear not to invest much effort in chemical or morphological defenses against herbivores.Google Scholar
  3. The result of all these activities is often referred to as “bioturbation.”Google Scholar
  4. This contrasts with some results in terrestrial environments, where it is believed that the succession moves from a nitrate-based to an ammonium-based nitrogen economy, since as succession proceeds, nitrogen may be supplied more and more by internal decay and recycling (mineralization of organic nitrogen) (Rice and Pancholy, 1972; Bormann and Likens, 1979). Such trends are not always found in terrestrial ecosystems (Vitousek et al., 1982).Google Scholar
  5. The terms opportunistic, fugitive, weedy, or pioneer are often applied to these species. The reproductive strategies involved were discussed in Chapter 4, where we also pointed out the r-K continuum was not a complete statement. Species adapted to live in very stressful conditions should also be included.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Valiela
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Marine Biological LaboratoryBoston University Marine ProgramWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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