Vegetation succession has been the subject of many papers and several reviews. Nevertheless, there is much confusion in the field of terminology. The concept of vegetation succession has been gradually abandoned in favour of the more general term vegetation change (Burrows 1990). Phenomenological terms have been created to suggest knowledge of mechanisms, and these are labelled with terms such as ‘models’ (Connell & Slatyer 1977; Burrows 1990), ‘scenarios’ (Peet 1992), or ‘classes’ (Zobel & Masing 1987; Glenn-Lewin & Van der Maarel 1992). Pickett et al. (1987) distinguished between pathways, causes and mechanisms of vegetation succession, and made an attempt to relate these to Connell & Slatyer’s models. When distinguishing between autogenic and allogenic mechanisms, following Tansley (1935), the use of these terms is confusing if they are applied at different levels of organization (vegetation, ecosystem). In addition, we can only guess in which way recent mechanistic terms, such as soil-driven dynamics and transient dynamics (Tilman 1988), lit to these notions. Plant competition has for long been recognized as an important mechanism of vegetation succession. The move, during the last decennium, from a phenomenological approach towards a mechanistic approach in the research on plant competition (reviewed by Grace & Tilman 1990), has also positively influenced the view on mechanisms of vegetation change (Tilman 1988; Berendse & Elberse 1990). The emphasis on competition, however, might result in an underestimation of other mechanisms of vegetation change. Overall, we felt challenged to review several concepts with regard to vegetation succession, focusing in particular on an evaluation of the perspectives they provide to enlarge our understanding of the mechanisms of vegetation succession. Only such knowledge enables the formulation of useful hypotheses and predictions. For this purpose, we first review concepts concerning vegetation and succession, and then attempt to create some order in the use of terms, thus providing a framework for further conceptual and experimental work. We will not repeat earlier reviews, but rather use their conclusions for the present purpose.

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Acta botanica neerlandica

CC BY 3.0 NL ("Naamsvermelding")

Koninklijke Nederlandse Botanische Vereniging

J. van Andel, J.P. Bakker, & A.P. Grootjans. (1993). Mechanisms of vegetation succession: a review of concepts and perspectives. Acta botanica neerlandica, 42(4), 413–433.