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Mark E. Swanson, Jerry F. Franklin, Robert L. Beschta, Charles M. Crisafulli, Dominick A. DellaSala, Richard L. Hutto, David B. Lindenmayer, Frederick J. Swanson
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Cataloging Information

Fire Ecology

NRFSN number: 14597
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Early-successional forest ecosystems that develop after stand-replacing or partial disturbances are diverse in species, processes, and structure. Post-disturbance ecosystems are also often rich in biological legacies, including surviving organisms and organically derived structures, such as woody debris. These legacies and postdisturbance plant communities provide resources that attract and sustain high species diversity, including numerous early-successional obligates, such as certain woodpeckers and arthropods. Early succession is the only period when tree canopies do not dominate the forest site, and so this stage can be characterized by high productivity of plant species (including herbs and shrubs), complex food webs, large nutrient fluxes, and high structural and spatial complexity. Different disturbances contrast markedly in terms of biological legacies, and this will influence the resultant physical and biological conditions, thus affecting successional pathways. Management activities, such as postdisturbance logging and dense tree planting, can reduce the richness within and the duration of early-successional ecosystems. Where maintenance of biodiversity is an objective, the importance and value of these natural early-successional ecosystems are underappreciated.


Swanson, M.E.; Franklin, J.F.; Beschta, R.L.; Crisafulli, C.M.; DellaSala, D.A.; Hutto, R.L.; Lindenmayer, D.B.; Swanson, F.J. 2010. The forgotten stage of forest succession: early-successional ecosystems on forest sites. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 9 p.