Conservation Science Blog

New research relevant to conservation in western North America

The Conservation Science Blog is intended to bring new and relevant research to the attention of conservation scientists, and facilitate discussion on how to apply this science to further conservation goals in western North America.

The forgotten stage of forest succession: early-successional ecosystems on forest sites

A new review of the ecological role of early-successional forests by Swanson and others, including Dominick Dellasala of NCCSP, is forthcoming in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The authors conclude:

Early-successional forest ecosystems that develop after stand-replacing or partial disturbances are diverse in species, processes, and structure. Post-disturbance ecosystems are also often rich in biological legacies, including surviving organisms and organically derived structures, such as woody debris. These legacies and post-disturbance plant communities provide resources that attract and sustain high species diversity, including numerous early-successional obligates, such as certain woodpeckers and arthropods. Early succession is the only period when tree canopies do not dominate the forest site, and so this stage can be characterized by high productivity of plant species (including herbs and shrubs), complex food webs, large nutrient fluxes, and high structural and spatial complexity. Different disturbances contrast markedly in terms of biological legacies, and this will influence the resultant physical and biological conditions, thus affecting successional pathways. Management activities, such as post-disturbance logging and dense tree planting, can reduce the richness within and the duration of early-successional ecosystems. Where maintenance of biodiversity is an objective, the importance and value of these natural early-successional ecosystems are underappreciated.
Full article is here.

Posted in Endangered species management, Fire ecology |