Mary E. Barbercheck, Penn State University
Ecological succession is the predictable changes in the structure of an ecological community (Schowalter, 2006). In agroecosystems, succession is usually initiated by some form of disturbance (for example, fire, logging, tillage of grasslands) of an existing ecological community. The trajectory of ecological change is affected by site conditions, by the interactions of the species present, and by more random factors, for example the kinds of seeds in the soil or weather conditions. In general, in early succession (soon after a disturbance), communities will be dominated by colonizers--fast-growing, easily dispersed, opportunistic species specialized to exploit disturbance (for example, annual weeds). As time after disturbance lengthens and succession proceeds, colonizer species will tend to be replaced by those that are more competitive ("persisters", for example, perennial weeds, woody species). In general, disturbance is used in agroecosystems to control succession to favor crop plants over invasive opportunistic pests and more competitive species.
Schowalter, T.D. 2006. Insect Ecology: An Ecosystem Approach. 2nd Edition. Academic Press. Burlington, MA.
Pedigo, L.P., and M.E. Rice. 2006. Entomology and pest management. 5th ed. Pearson Prentice Hall. Columbus, OH.
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