Primary Vs Secondary Succession- Definition, 12 Differences, Examples

Primary Vs Secondary Succession Overview

Primary Succession Definition

Primary succession is a sort of ecological succession that occurs when living creatures occupy an area for the first time after it has just created and lacks livable soil.

  • A stable ecosystem develops via a sequence of events known as primary succession.
  • Natural occurrences like volcanic or glacier eruptions, which result in a lack of soil or living creatures, are often to blame for the formation of new ecosystems.
  • The ‘pioneer organisms’—groups of organisms that colonise these environments—are often made up of lichens, algae, and fungus.
  • Primary succession starts with the weathering of rocks to provide soil for the first organisms to live.
  • Primary succession often begins as a result of either a biological element or an external influence.
  • Once some soil is created, species with little soil needs, like lichen, start to grow there. These creatures come from a separate habitat and enter the new one.
  • These organisms also aid in the soil’s decomposition of mineral-based rocks produced by lava or glaciers so that other organisms may live there.
  • The pioneer species keep expanding, procreating, passing away, and decomposing, forming soil pockets that other species may use to develop and thrive.
  • By increasing the organic content of the soil, the breakdown of these organisms aids in the production of new soil.
  • The succession involves several iterations of this procedure. New species enter the habitat that the ones who came before them have established in each new stage, and some of them may even supplant them.
  • Fast-growing vegetation gradually takes over these places, covering the majority of the land. Large tree seeds eventually blow or fly into the new habitat, attracting other animal species.
  • With the introduction of new species, the environment undergoes constant change throughout primary succession, ultimately leading to a more stable state.
  • The phrase “climax community” refers to the community that forms when the environment is in a stable condition.
  • The ecology and composition at this phase are far less unstable than those of the previous ecosystems.
  • The process of primary succession is protracted and takes years to complete.
  • The development of a new ecosystem after a volcanic eruption, a glacier eruption, or a nuclear explosion are some instances of primary succession.

Secondary succession definition

A kind of ecological succession known as secondary succession takes place when a previously established ecosystem is disrupted by an incident like a fire or a storm and is later recolonized by new species.

  • Secondary succession, in contrast to primary succession, starts in a setting with pre-existing soil.
  • Thus, secondary succession occurs in a setting where the primary succession has been disturbed but where certain plants and animals may still be present.
  • This kind of succession often occurs after calamities like a forest fire, storm, or harvesting, which destroys the current ecology.
  • Secondary succession is always started as a result of some outside influences.
  • The towering trees are killed after a forest fire, and the first plants that emerge there are often annual plants.
  • Grass, low-lying plants, and other pioneer species are the next annual plants.
  • Similar to primary succession, the early colonists in secondary succession are referred to as “pioneer species.”
  • Contrary to those in primary succession, these pioneer species mostly develop from the community’s pre-existing groupings of organisms.
  • New plant groupings like shrubs and herbs gradually emerge as a consequence of environmental changes brought on by the expansion of grasses.
  • These creatures are referred to as intermediate species, and they further alter the environment so that higher plants may thrive.
  • Finally, over an extended length of time, the environment’s makeup returns to its original or pre-fire form.
  • The process of succession is influenced by a variety of variables, including seed production and seed dissemination.
  • The makeup and interactions of the community are also influenced by other elements like as soil texture, climate, pH, bulk density, and landscape shape.
  • The dynamics of competition and colonisation, trophic interaction, and initial environmental makeup all affect the kind of community that emerges following secondary succession.
  • Secondary succession often takes less time than primary succession; following a forest fire, secondary succession takes roughly 150 years to complete.
  • Secondary succession includes regrowth after a fire, harvesting, logging, or abandonment of land, as well as regrowth following the spread of a disease.

Key Differences (Primary succession vs Secondary succession)

Basis for Comparison Primary succession Secondary succession
Definition Primary succession is a type of ecological succession that takes place in an environment that is recently formed and lacks habitable soil but then is colonized for the first time by living organisms. Secondary succession is a type of ecological succession that occurs in an environment with an already established ecosystem that gets disruption due to some events like fire or hurricane and is then re-colonized by other organisms.
Initial vegetation Primary succession occurs in an area without any initial vegetation. Secondary succession occurs in an area with initial vegetation.
Initiation Primary succession is initiated either due to a biological factor or an external agent. An external factor initiates secondary succession.
Soil Before the beginning of the primary succession, the surface soil is absent in the area. Secondary succession occurs in an area covered with surface soil.
Organic matter There is no organic matter present in the environment undergoing primary succession. Organic matter is present in the environment undergoing secondary succession
Environment The environment during primary succession is unfavorable and is made favorable as new species continue to grow. The environment is favorable from the beginning.
Pioneer species The pioneer species of primary succession enter the ecosystem from the outside environment. The pioneer species of secondary succession are the species already present within the previous ecosystem.
Intermediate community Numerous intermediate communities are formed during primary succession. Fewer intermediate communities are formed during secondary succession.
Previous community No previous community is present in the environment prior to primary succession. Previous communities are present in the environment prior to secondary succession.
Time Primary succession takes a longer time to complete. Secondary succession takes a shorter time to complete.
Examples Some examples of primary succession include the formation of a new ecosystem after a volcano, glacier outbursts, or a nuclear explosion. Some examples of secondary succession include succession after fire, harvesting, logging, or abandonment of land or the renewal after a disease outbreak.

Examples of primary succession

Primary succession after a nuclear explosion

  • It was believed that no life would develop in regions where nuclear weapons had been detonated for generations.
  • However, it was shown that even in these places, main succession starts within 30 years.
  • These are regarded as lifeless environments because it is possible that no life may survive there for a very long time.
  • After a number of years, the region is free of any hazardous radiation brought on by a nuclear explosion.
  • The weathering of pre-existing rocks starts the main succession following nuclear explosion, just as it does in all other settings.
  • Pioneer species like lichens and algae enter the ecosystem when rocks start to break down, causing the first populations of living things to emerge.
  • A new group of organisms replaces the previous groups as the succession process progresses, leading to an increase in organic matter in these locations.
  • A stable climax community or ecosystem forms there after at least 100 years.

Primary succession in sand dunes

  • Because to the high wind speeds, shifting sand, and lack of nutrients and organic matter, seashores have hostile environments.
  • As a result, the environment lacks stable ecosystems, and the pioneer species in such a setting include bacteria that coexist alongside pioneering plants.
  • These plants’ root systems contain several changes that avoid water loss and lack of organic matter while also allowing the plant to attach onto shifting sand.
  • Lichens use the organic material that has been deposited on the huge stones that are present on the coast after these grasses.
  • Up until a stable climax community is developed, new species join the habitat as it continues to expand and supplant the old living organisms.
  • Eventually, dunes and seashores will include creatures that can endure high salt concentrations.

Examples of secondary succession

Land harvesting, logging, and land abandonment

  • An notable illustration of secondary succession brought about by humans is the abandonment of agriculture.
  • As available nutrients are constantly eliminated through agriculture, land that is continuously farmed generally becomes empty of nutrients.
  • The absence of organic matter generates an environment that is unsuitable for the development of plants or other creatures.
  • Following such areas’ abandonment, secondary succession starts with the emergence of pioneer plants.
  • Early vegetation produces enough organic matter and nutrient density for more recent creatures to live there.
  • Then, plants and herbs are planted in its place, acting as a barrier against soil erosion and other natural calamities.
  • As new populations develop, the farmland eventually gets adequate nutrients replenished.
  • However, because of the kind of soil and chemical fertilisers used on such land, secondary succession in human-affected landscapes differs from that in the natural environment.
  • Due to this, specialised plants begin to colonise the region, which reduces biodiversity.

Renewal after diseases

  • In regions where a disease epidemic has wiped out the native environment, secondary succession also takes place.
  • Even when a disease is fatal to one species, it ultimately impacts the plants and other animals that are already present in the environment.
  • However, certain plants’ roots or seeds may still be present in the current soil, which might lead to a secondary succession.
  • Similar to how removing one group of species could open the door for another group to settle, which might have been in conflict with the original colonists.
  • As new and varied groups of species may occupy the ecosystem, secondary succession under this circumstance permits biodiversity within a habitat.

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