Dynamic and static views of succession: Testing the descriptive power of the chronosequence approach

Bryan L. Foster, David Tilman

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275 Scopus citations


Chronosequence and permanent plot studies are the two most common methods for evaluating successional dynamics in plant communities. We combined these two approaches by re-sampling an old-field chronosequence at Cedar Creek Natural History Area (Minnesota, USA) to: (1) measure rates of secondary succession; and (2) to test the ability of the chronosequence approach to predict actual successional dynamics over a 14-year survey interval. For each of 19 chronosequence fields we calculated four complimentary indices of succession rate for community changes that actually occurred within each of these fields between 1983 and 1997. We found that measures of compositional dissimilarity, species turnover, and the change rates of perennial and native species cover over this 14-year period were all negatively correlated with field age, indicating that the rate of successional change in these old-fields generally declines over time. We also found that data collected from the initial static chronosequence survey (1983) accurately predicted many of the observed changes in species abundance that occurred between 1983 and 1997, but was a poor predictor of changes in species richness. In general, chronosequence re-sampling confirmed the validity of using the chronosequence approach to infer basic patterns of successional change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NSF grant 9411972 and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. We are grateful to J. Haarstad for his help identifying plants and for his involvement in the field surveys. We also thank the Cedar Creek interns for their help collecting field data.


  • Chronosequence
  • Chronosequence re-sampling
  • Old-field succession
  • Permanent plots
  • Species richness
  • Succession rate


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