Zonation and succession
Zonation and succession
There is ample evidence that a progressive change in the intensity of an important environmental factor leads to the formation of zones or belt-like communities in which the plant species reflect a fairly distinct range of tolerance for that factor (Daubenmire 1968). Zonation has been defined as a sequence of vegetation in space and succession as a sequence of vegetation in time (McIntosh 1980). A zone is an area occupied by a plant community that is distinctly different from other zones and can be readily recognized by a change in dominant vegetation. Striking examples of zonation are found in salt marshes, mountain slopes and ponds because of soil salinity in salt marshes, decrease in temperature on mountain slopes and increase in water depth in ponds (Daubenmire 1968; Chapman 1976; Partridge and Wilson 1988). Similarly, it has long been known (Beck 1819) that sand dunes along sea coasts exhibit a zonation pattern extending from the beach to inland dunes. The zones are discrete and occur in parallel series with distinctly different species composition that is related to the ability of plant species to withstand the environmental factors prevailing in that zone (Doing 1985). Many later studies using transects from the shoreline to the inland dunes have confirmed that the taxa are not randomly distributed; they peak at definite distances from the beach (Oosting and Billings 1942; Boyce 1954; Martin 1959; Barbour 1978; Barbour et al. 1985). Succession in coastal dunes is an example of primary succession because the sandy material deposited on the shoreline by waves is inert. The term is generally used to denote a directional change in species composition and physiognomy of vegetation at the same site over time (Drury and Nisbet 1973). However, only the very early stages of dune succession can be observed during the life time of a plant ecologist and the later stages are usually inferred from plant communities represented on older sand dunes. It is hypothesized that the autogenic influence of early colonizers alters environmental conditions in the habitat and facilitates the establishment of new species better adapted to live in the altered habitat.
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