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Why not take a look at how Succession works in practice in a Salt Marsh

Succession | Seral Stages


As competition between different species resolves we will be left with an assemblage of species that is (theoretically at least) stable with time. This is known as the climax stage. No new species will be added and the community will remain the same forever.

Exactly what is meant by this is not very clear. What is meant by stable with time? If the community is to remain the same forever then evolution itself has to cease. Any community is stable over a few minutes, no community is stable over a few million years.

What controls the composition of this climax community? It may seem strange viewed from the early 21st Century but at the beginning of the 20th Century this was the hot topic in ecology. There were 2 conflicting viewpoints: The organismic hypothesis and the individualistic hypothesis.

Organismic hypothesists followed an American ecologist called F. Clements. Clements had developed a very appealing theory in which the community acted as a single organism, he called this a quasi-super-organism. This led him to the conclusion that given enough time the the quasi-super-organismic community (try saying that after a couple of beers) over whole regions of the earth's surface would develop into the same final end point or climax. The sole arbiter determining the climax was the climate. This gave rise to the idea of the climatic climax community and was also known as the monoclimax hypothesis. (Terms you should be careful with unless you want to end up in a list of exam howlers). The idea of the community as an organism appeals to many and it's drawn upon to this day by people with large beards (possibly metaphorical ones) who bang on about "ecocide" and other nebulous concepts.

Individualistic hypothesists followed another American called H. Gleason. Gleason reckoned that what we see as communities represents the final outcome of many separate competitive events between many different species. Gleason saw the community as the result of every individual in it acting in its own best interests. This became known as the individualistic hypothesis. It led to the conclusion that you could have several stable end-points (climaxes) for communities and that local factors other than just the climate might be involved. This gave rise to the term polyclimax and provoked great excitement in the pages of Parrot Breeders Monthly. The individualistic hypothesis sits much better with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and would be the more acceptable of the two to most ecologists (bearded or not) today.

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