Primary and Secondary Succession

Essay by tobyboyUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2006

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Ecosystems are environments where biotic (living) organisms and abiotic (non-living) components interact together to create a functional, complex network of nutrient and energy cycling. These balanced environments take time, sometimes many years, to develop. During the course of development, species are replaced by other species within the ecosystem, a process known as succession. Primary succession happens when species grow in locations where organisms have never previously existed. Secondary succession occurs after an ecosystem disturbance. The basic difference between primary and secondary succession is the presence of soil. When primary succession begins, soil is not present; in the case of secondary succession, soil is already in place. What occurs during primary and secondary succession? How can an ecosystem recover from a natural or man-made disaster? By examining the workings of an ecosystem and a case of primary and secondary succession, environmental scientists can find the answers to these questions.

What is an Ecosystem?

As stated above, an ecosystem is a place where biotic and abiotic components interact within their environment.

Living parts of an ecosystem include animals and plants. These animals and plants perform roles of producers, consumers, or decomposers. According to Raven & Berg (2004), these three roles are indispensable within ecosystems. Producers provide food and oxygen, consumers create balance between producers and decomposers, and decomposers prevent accumulation of dead organisms and waste products (p. 72). Non-living components of ecosystems include soil, sun, and weather conditions. Working together, the biotic and abiotic components cycle nutrients within the ecosystem. This is vital action because without nutrients the ecosystem and its inhabitants would not survive. Where do ecosystems come from and how do they begin? The answer lies in the definition of primary succession.

Primary Succession

The very beginning of an ecosystem happens when primary succession occurs. After devastation from volcanism, glaciations,