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Am Nat. 2007 Jun;169(6):780-93. Epub 2007 Apr 6.

Temporal patterns in rates of community change during succession.

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Biology Department, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA.


While ecological dogma holds that rates of community change decrease over the course of succession, this idea has yet to be tested systematically across a wide variety of successional sequences. Here, I review and define several measures of community change rates for species presence-absence data and test for temporal patterns therein using data acquired from 16 studies comprising 62 successional sequences. Community types include plant secondary and primary succession as well as succession of arthropods on defaunated mangrove islands and carcasses. Rates of species gain generally decline through time, whereas rates of species loss display no systematic temporal trends. As a result, percent community turnover generally declines while species richness increases--both in a decelerating manner. Although communities with relatively minor abiotic and dispersal limitations (e.g., plant secondary successional communities) exhibit rapidly declining rates of change, limitations arising from harsh abiotic conditions or spatial isolation of the community appear to substantially alter temporal patterns in rates of successional change.

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