Pioneer Species Trees: Stages of Ecological Succession Primary Examples

Woman planting a pioneer species tree in the middle of a barren wasteland, after learning pioneer species definition and types of trees, plants, animals involved in ecological succession, including primary succession and the other stages.

Pioneer species of plants and trees have a wonderfully unique aspect to them.

Have you ever heard about a previously barren wasteland suddenly becoming a beautiful lush green land with various types of trees?

Or have you read about a massive forest that was wiped clean after a fire but has been reclaimed by nature?

The reason for this is pioneer species of plants and animals.

Graphic images showing pioneer species examples of plants and water species that help primary succession.

Thanks to them, areas devastated by fire can regrow into abundantly thriving vegetation in a matter of a few seasons.

If you are a plant lover and are fascinated by the incredible world that trees create, this guide explains how pioneer species trees and plants ensure that the stages of ecological secession occurs, rebuilding areas that have been damaged.

What Is a Pioneer Species? Definition

Imagine if barren, uninhabitable land stayed the exact same way forever. This means if there is a fire that has ravaged a forest, it will be the end of it; it will stay dead and gone forever without a single trace of plant or animal life.

Disastrous right? It would mean the loss of valuable plants and rare animal species that depend on that land for survival.

Close up view of grass growing on land with dried leaves.

You see the first types of plants that grow first to colonize a previously uninhabitable land and help in reclaiming it, those are what scientists call pioneer species.

The biological definition of these plants is that they are the very first plants that colonize a barren land during primary succession and the first to colonize a habitat during secondary succession.

These plants are amazing, the most hardy of the bunch, succeeding where other species are afraid. They don’t really mind that the conditions are too harsh for them, or that there are very few resources available at their disposal.

They set foot in uncharted territories, live and thrive there, and the best part is that they pave the way for other plants and animals to come in.

It takes unique types of plants to do this and the ones that do have the ability can live in the weirdest of places.

For instance, you will find pioneer species like microorganisms growing on rocks, in sandy soils, water, and other places you normally wouldn’t expect plants to live in. These places seem to work for them because they have already adapted to living in tiny spaces.

They are also able to survive on very little nutrients and have no trouble utilizing the few minerals available. They can reproduce in those barren ecosystems and colonize the entire place, living and growing until they die.7

How Fire Ravaged Areas Regrow

This goes a long way to explain why they are able to come back to a land that has suffered some interference in the past.

This includes regions that have been devastated by forest fires or have suffered under punishing human activities, like massive deforestation.

The pioneer species set base in the land and they start the important process of helping the ecosystem recover from all that it has gone through in the past.10

This is welcome news because while they are busy living their beautiful lives, little do they know that their living there and carrying on with their lives actually sets the pace for more species to come in.

They are responsible for creating soil and many other detritus that makes it comfortable for other living organisms to call the place their home. Not only do they stabilize the soil, but they also make the area nutrient-rich, moderate the levels of temperature, and reduce exposure to wind.

With this, they are able to make otherwise uninhabitable land become a fertile and more hospitable environment for the coming generation of plants.

The more pioneer species exist, the more new generation of plants and animals comes in. Down the line, as the pioneer species begin to get wiped out, the other species displace them and take their place.

And with that, the land now becomes a hotbed of diverse species, completely altering the otherwise bare environment. This entire process of the infertile and uninhabitable land becoming a diverse ecosystem and hosting plenty of plant and animal life is what is now scientifically called Primary Succession.

Features of Pioneer Species Trees and Plants

Looking at how interesting pioneer species can be, you can’t help but wonder, what makes them the way they are?

How come they are able to effortlessly colonize previously barren and desolate areas and make them their home, reproduce there, and thrive until they die?

A pioneer plant species started to grow on the slope of sand dune.

(Image: Tangopaso23)

The following are the features that most, if not all, pioneer species possess; characteristics which not all species have.


This is the first qualification that would make any tree become an excellent pioneer species; it is the entire reason for its existence anyway. Imagine a species that can live where other species cannot and live in the harshest environments possible.

It is fantastic just how they are able to tolerate any type of condition. It doesn’t really matter to these organisms and nothing phases them, be it water and light scarcity, or little to no nutrients.

All these are the conditions necessary for the survival of other organisms in the normal setup, yet the pioneer species can survive that; if that is not being the most hardy of the bunch, what else could it be?

Natural Adaptiveness

Another feature that is hard to miss when it comes to all pioneer species is the fact that they are naturally inclined to explore new habitats.

They have an innate ability to want to colonize new lands and the icing on the cake is how they are flexible enough to easily adjust to new surroundings, regardless of the prevailing conditions.

For them to fit into the category, these organisms must be agile, and naturally and easily blend into new living conditions. Since they will live in their new home for a very long time, these species must also be comfortable enough to conduct all their normal activities, from breeding to feeding.

Orthodox and Easy-To-Germinate Seeds

This is one more unique feature of pioneer species and it pertains to their seeds;11 they have to spread these seeds in order to conquer more territories.

The term orthodox means seeds that have less than 10% moisture content, which may be a bit tricky to grow in normal surroundings but it works for them.5

Luckily enough, the seeds are still very viable and interestingly have a very long life and this is a huge deal for the pioneer species. It basically means that the organisms can still grow even when the seeds have been dormant for a very long time.

And that is how they are still able to grow even long after the first species are gone.

These seeds are also known to bravely tolerate desiccation. As a matter of fact, they can also lead to the growth of new plants after germination and the low moisture content doesn’t affect them because they will still grow regardless.

Light-Induced Seed Germination

Another important term to note when it comes to pioneer species is the scientific term “photoblastic.” Basically what this means is that the species only requires light exposure in order to grow.

This can never happen in normal conditions where species are usually more demanding.

A close-up view of weeds started to grow on barren land.

(Image: Jody Davis24)

Under ideal circumstances, seeds require water, nutrients, and other conditions to be met before they can grow. But in comparison, pioneer species seeds really can’t be choosers when it comes to such barren environments.

The single most important requirement for them in this case is light exposure that does the job of stimulating them to germinate.

Short Life Cycle

You can easily tell that the uninhabited lands don’t really offer much for a microorganism to have the best time to grow and reproduce and eventually die of good old age. Therefore, the species have to find a way to live within the shortest time possible and reproduce as fast as possible.

It is no wonder that anything that grows on uninhabited land grows for only one single purpose; reproduction.

It goes without saying that you will notice that these living things tend to reach the age of maturity way faster than others in more pleasant environments. They have to reproduce way earlier in their lives and die just as fast.

It doesn’t matter how they continue the species, it could be sexually or asexually but that is their single purpose for existing.

Wind Pollination and Dispersal

The same way that the environment is not very ideal for the pioneer species is the same way that it is not exactly perfect for pollinators or other animals, for that matter. So how do the seeds disperse then to give rise to more populations?

Here is where the wind comes in. It is the perfect way to pollinate the species and disperse the seeds because they cannot really rely on water or animals.

If the species require sexual reproduction, they have to be pollinated by the wind.

Small Seeds

There is no limit to what the pioneer species cannot do to ensure that they are able to reproduce and conquer more territories. One way that they have adapted over time is to reduce the size of their propagules by as much as possible and this is a clever way to achieve their agenda.

The seeds being small increases the chances of germination.12 But how?

These very tiny seeds can easily be dispersed and in case of anything, they can always attach themselves to tiny crevices and holes and that of course will be their new germination spot.

High Seed Dispersal Rate

Again, the pioneer species have to work extra hard to do a single job and one job only, reproduction. The only way that they can be able to colonize more areas is if they find a way to increase the chances of success when it comes to seed dispersal.

And what better way to do that than by increasing the rate of dispersal?

It is interesting how the species produce so many seeds and how extra viable they are. The extremely high number of seeds produced and their high dispersal rates are all in a bid to colonize more and more lands and it works effortlessly.

Asexual Reproduction Is More Favorable

You can imagine just how much of a toll sexual reproduction takes on the pioneer species.

They are already living in tricky situations and nutrient-deprived locations, and they still have to find the strength to disperse seeds and reproduce, all thanks to the efforts of the wind.

A close-up view of Cinclidium stygium, a type of moss with asexual reproduction.

(Image: Kristian Hassel25)

This has, over time, proven to be more demanding of their energy, something that they need to preserve a lot given their current conditions. Not to mention how much time it takes for pollination to occur, something that they don’t really have.

So, what is the next cause of action, the species have to evolve to focus more on asexual reproduction that is not as demanding.3 Although there are still species that reproduce sexually, the ones that do it asexually are more prevalent and it is clearly easy to see why.

Habitat and Reproduction of Pioneer Species

One thing that you should definitely know about pioneer species is the fact that they can easily change the surroundings of wherever they colonize, and they have evolved to this perfectly well. As long as they find a way to survive in a particular environment, they will be the ones to set the tone for the species that will replace them.

The survival of the next generation basically depends on them, and they do a great job to make sure that happens. In the same light, this also has a way of changing how the other species lead their lives.

For instance, the pioneer species are famous for being able to change the abiotic state of wherever they live, conditions like the temperature and the soil.

To get a better understanding of this, consider pioneer species like Lichen types. These ones are very well known for growing even on rocks, places where very few organisms can survive because they are used to nutrient-rich soils.

When they do this, they kind of change the state of the rocks, softening them and breaking them down to form a sort of soil or finer type of rocks.13

Since there are less hardy plants that prefer growing in soil-like grounds, they will come later, finding it easier to replace the lichen species. It is tactics like these and many more that enable the pioneer species to actually convert their habitat into environments that other successive species can live and thrive in,14 albeit unknowingly.

It is also interesting that the death of these species is also of great help to future generations. When they die and decompose, they create plant litter, the one that breaks down to form leaf mold after a while and in the process this creates new soil that will be of benefit to the plant species involved in secondary succession.

Not just that, the nutrients that are left behind will also be used by the aquatic plants and fish that are present in nearby water bodies.

A close-up view of a plant that grows on rocks.

(Image: Asurnipal26)

One more fun fact about the pioneer species is that they are photosynthetic, and they don’t really have much choice considering their living conditions. Light is most likely the only readily available energy source, and they fully rely on it for their biological processes, therefore, there are very low chances of finding a non-photosynthetic pioneer species.

When it comes to pollination, these species can count on wind to do that for them. Well, that is the last resort for them because there are no animals or water.

Animals or insects that rely on plants to survive don’t exactly live in these colonized areas, and neither is there water to carry away pollen to facilitate reproduction.6 This goes to show why many of them are asexual species while the rest are pollinated by the wind.

Why Are Pioneer Species Important?

You may ask, why is there a lot of awe and admiration for pioneer species? What exactly do they do for the environment that makes them very special species?

Quite a lot, actually. These are some of the reasons why there are forests and massive flora and fauna on the entire planet, and there are several more reasons why there is a lot of emphasis on their features and how they grow.

Basically, pioneer species are vital to the evolution of the entire ecosystem.15 Without them, barren lands would stay the same forever.

Imagine land staying the same way after a terrible forest fire, and that deforestation means that no more plants or animals will ever grow there again. If that were to happen, all plant and animal life would be wiped out, and not just that, that would be the end of human life too.

If no plants would grow on infertile rocky land, there would be no other way that it would convert to soil that would be able to support other plant life. It is the fertile soil that forms after the pioneer species that becomes the foundation for the seeds that were dispersed to take root.

Eye level view of plants that grows on lava fields.

(Image: LBM194829)

Sometime later, years or decades maybe, more and more organisms will find the land more habitable, and that would be the change that the environment needs to restore its former glory.

Literally, these species will do a great job serving as food and habitats for other plant life. The best part about this is the fact that the more years pass and the more plants colonize the areas, the more comfortable it gets for larger plant species to inhabit the land.

You can imagine what an impressive transformation that would be, from microorganisms to giant trees.

It all starts with the lichen, which leads to the growth of moss, which in turn supports the growth of grass, and finally large trees. That basically means that the habitat changes from being able to shelter tiny insects,16 then later pollinators like bees and flies, followed by snakes and birds, and so on until larger animals become more comfortable.

This is the transformation that the ecosystem goes through throughout the ecological succession.

What Are the Qualities of Pioneer Species?

There are quite a number of qualities that make pioneer species what they are today. For instance, they are known to be very hardy, able to survive some of the harshest conditions ever.

They are also pretty flexible, and most tend to reproduce asexually. In addition to that, these species are known to have tiny and very viable seeds that are stimulated by nothing but light.

Pioneer Species Examples

Think of hardy and resilient species that dare to colonize areas that others cannot, and you will be thinking of pioneer species. They often come in various types, shapes, and sizes and with unique characteristics.

It is very important to know which organisms are common pioneer species.

The following are examples of pioneer species that make all this happen.

Mosses and Lichens

Probably the very first examples of pioneer species due to the fact that they have evolved to become perfect microorganisms that can conquer even the most uninhabitable lands.2 They are famous for being the first to set base on the rockiest and driest of lands and can survive the harshest conditions.

Grass and Weeds

Apart from Lichens and Moss, these types of plants are also very well known for their ability to colonize and help reclaim lands that were previously lost to wildfires.

Not only are they experts in fast growth rates but they are also known to produce an overwhelming number of seeds that further increase their spread.

Algae and Plankton

Algae have a unique gift of finding habitats in the weirdest of places, even those that are deprived of nutrients, and in turn, pave the way for more sort of complex ecosystems.


The hidden talent that makes these organisms excellent pioneer species is how well they can perform photosynthesis and are able to fix nitrogen.

Therefore, they can live virtually anywhere and the best part is that they form the basis for marine and other aquatic ecosystems.


There is no aquatic or terrestrial environment without the presence of invertebrates like tiny insects and snails. These minute organisms usually find their way into these environments after being floated or carried over by birds.

Stages of Succession

The stages of ecological succession are of great importance when learning about ecological studies. Why?

Because it is the best way to explain how the ecosystem gradually changes through time, and in this case, it helps you know exactly how otherwise barren land is able to become a bountiful and luscious ecosystem filled with plenty of plant and animal life.

A graphic that shows the stages of ecological succession such as nudation, invasion, competition, reaction, and stabilization/climax.

The following are the stages involved in ecological succession.

Stage 1: Nudation

This is basically where it all begins or in other words the cause of the land becoming bare and uninhabitable. It explains how come the arable land is transformed into barren and inhabitable land.

In most cases, these are areas that previously had life, but for one reason or the other end up becoming barren and inhospitable.

Nudation occurs due to several reasons, natural and human causes. These lands start out after forest fires, volcanic eruptions, floods, disease outbreaks, landslides, illegal logging, and any other catastrophic incident.

Stage 2: Invasion

Just from the name, you can tell that this is one of the most important steps in ecological succession. Here is where plant species successfully find their way into these new lands all in a bid to conquer them and grow their populations.

So what happens in ecological succession is that the seedlings or in other words,17 propagules, germinate, grow into seedlings and then mature to be able to reproduce as adult pioneer species.

If not for the species evolving to produce numerous viable seeds, most of them would only be lost and it would be impossible for them to germinate, especially under such harsh conditions.

Stage 3: Competition

This is common in an ecosystem because all living things need nutrients to survive and that is especially true in conditions where the nutrients are quite limited. You see, the more the seeds disperse and lead to the rise of the colonies, the more the plant population increases and this takes a huge toll on the species.

There are already a lot of challenges as it is, given the living conditions of the pioneer species, and now you can imagine what happens when there are more of them in that limited space with very few resources. High-level competition; right?

The plants will be competing among themselves with other totally different species that also found themselves in the area.

What happens when the plants start fighting for limited resources, they get weak and make it easier for other completely different microorganisms to take over. Soon enough the very first occupants are relegated to become subdominant species or sometimes even eliminated, leading to the rise of bigger plant and animal species.4

Stage 4: Stabilization/Climax

When all is said and done, the competition and the struggle don’t last that long. Soon after, there comes a point where everything achieves a balance, or otherwise a taste of equilibrium.

The species reach the climax of their existence where they are able to confidently and effortlessly live in the world that they have created for themselves.

They are able to mature into their new lives and sustain themselves without feeling that there are limited resources or some things lacking. This is the final stage where it is all steady; there is now a well-laid-out structure with complex food chains and all the organisms are able to maintain themselves.

Pioneer Species in Ecological Succession

The most important aspect when it comes to the sustainability of the ecological system is how well the various components interact with each other.

Basically, their relationship is what in the long run determines how everything plays out.

A close-up view of a pioneer plant growing on sand.

(Image: Lamiot27)

How will the species survive? Will all their needs be met?

How will they conduct their normal activities?

All these come to play when determining the ultimate survival of these species in an otherwise barren ecosystem. This is why studying ecological succession is so important because you have to know the changes that these species go through all through their lives.

Well, it is pretty interesting how ecological succession takes two main forms.

Primary Succession

Just from the name, you can automatically tell what this type of succession means. Organisms in the primary succession are those that are the first to colonize the land, for the first time that is.

Basically, primary succession refers to what happens when organisms take over a barren area that has no current plant or animal life.18

A graphic that shows the primary succession such as pioneer species, intermediate species, and climax community.

For it to occur, the rule is that there has to be not a single plant, insect, animal, seed, soil, or anything else. Literally, the environment should have traces of life whatsoever, and there should be no sort of community occupying the area.

Only the very first pioneer species can qualify to be part of primary succession.

Lichen, Moss, and other fungi can easily qualify to be part of primary succession just because of the fact that they are usually the first to set base in otherwise uncharted territories. They are the hardest and can live in areas where other plants are not able to.

Those organisms that fall in this category are the ones that are credited with the restoration and rehabilitation of ecosystems, without which secondary succession or any other growth would not happen.

Secondary Succession

The first stage of succession after nudation is the invasion step, where plants find a way to colonize new lands, reproduce and establish themselves. Well, the very first plants that set base in the barren land are part of the primary succession.

Now the colony that comes after the first is what forms part of secondary succession.

A graphic that shows the secondary succession.

The main difference between these two types is the current state of the environment. You see, for primary succession, the land has got to be bare, completely devoid of any plant or animal life but the case is different when it comes to secondary succession.

In the case of secondary succession, there must have been an existing community previously.

Secondary succession only happens when there has been an interference with the plants and animals in primary succession, say in the case of natural or human-caused problems. In primary succession, there are little to no resources for the plants to live on, but in secondary, at least there is the soil and little nutrients, meaning the species don’t exactly have to start from scratch like the Moss and Lichens did.

What Is Primary Succession?

Now that you have a general overview of what primary succession means, it is now time to dig a little deeper to understand what it truly entails and why it is so important to the ecosystem. To put it in the simplest way possible, primary succession is the first process that happens during the invasion stage of ecological succession.

It all starts when pioneer species begin colonizing new territories when the land is bare, desolate, and not survivable for other plant and animal species. Here, the land tends to consist of mere rocks, where there are no soil nutrients, water, or just about anything that would help a plant comfortably grow.

Microbial species know this all too well and have over time adjusted to living in these deplorable conditions, finding a way to survive them.

When the species find a way to latch onto these rocks, they gradually convert their surfaces into softer soil-like particles that now make it easier for plants like grass to grow. Isn’t it fantastic how this process keeps repeating itself until the land is finally able to sustain its own complex food chain.19

So, basically, when the lichen is replaced by grass, the grass does the exact same job to make the spot more habitable for larger plant species.9 The more this keeps happening, the more the environment is able to recover and ultimately possess the features of a normal ecosystem.

The soil will be there and it will be rich in nutrients, there will be shade for the undergrowth, and insects and other animals, both big and small will be able to survive and sustain themselves.

One more important question that you may ask is, how long does primary succession take? A very long time.

The period from invasion of the new species to their stabilization can take as much as 1,000 years and that shouldn’t come as a shock because you can imagine how slow it must be for microorganisms to grow in a nutrient-deprived land, live and find a way to thrive there.

Primary Succession Examples: Pioneer Plants

With all the information about what primary succession is and what it is all about, the next step is to find out which pioneer plants fall under the category, not all plants can be able to survive such harsh conditions and it is only a few that ace the test of time to pave the way for other species to come in during secondary succession.

One of the very first organisms no doubt is the lichens/ mosses. They are the top pioneer species and also the most notable members of plants under primary succession.

-p[ A graphic that shows the secondary succession pioneer trees examples.

Cyanobacteria algae are also credited for being the first ones to come to the rescue of ecosystems. All primary pioneers are some of the most resilient species on the planet.

Because there is absolutely no way that a plant would willingly choose to grow in such moisture and nutrient-deprived conditions. And even when it does, it will hardly make it, and it will gradually show by how weak and starved it looks.

But no, that is not what happens when it comes to lichens. Have you seen how lush moss tends to grow?

That is exactly how it looks regardless of the prevailing conditions.

What Is Secondary Succession?

When the pioneer species in primary succession have already established themselves, anything that will grow when they are wiped out is part of secondary succession. Say when the land the mosses and lichens grow on is disturbed by any calamity, be it natural or human-caused, any growth after that will be a secondary succession.

This type of growth usually takes place in places that have had some sort of interruption or interference. This may be a previously cleared forest ecosystem, a land that has been devastated by heavy floods, or virtually anything else.

The main difference between primary and secondary succession is literally the starting point or, in other words, the circumstances that led to the rise of the plants.

When it comes to secondary succession, the plant and animals are simply reintroduced to an ecosystem that may be under turmoil, yes but is still conducive to the survival of living things. It is safe to say that organisms in the secondary succession kind have it easier than those that live in the previous generation.20

But why?

For starters, if anything happens and causes the removal of the primary species, it is only the vegetation that will be removed, but the nutrient-rich soil remains intact and very able to support the subsequent plant and animal life. Therefore, the coming generation is able to start with all the things that it needs for survival, picking up from where the primary members of the ecological succession had left off.

As a matter of fact, there are some plant species, especially weeds, that will keep growing in spite of the kind of disturbance that has occurred. Seeds also tend to remain in the ground and, of course, will sprout in no time.

This only goes ahead to prove the fact that how a community behaves after a disturbance depends on various factors. But in most cases, it all relies on how the pre-disturbance ecosystem previously was.

It is vital to note that because, literally, all life of secondary succession picks up after the original community from where it left off. This also goes further to explain why the changes in the ecosystem actually happen so fast, way faster than the primary succession; at least this time round, the species will be starting from somewhere.8

Factors That Affect the Growth of Trees During Secondary Succession

One thing about secondary succession is that the species find it way easier to colonize the lands that previously had existing communities.

Below are some of the conditions that are likely to affect the growth of these particular organisms.

  • The nature of the soil: The soil is the single most essential factor when it comes to the growth of any plant or tree. If the disturbance happens to leave the soil still nutrient-rich or with a desirable pH to support certain plants, then the resulting population will find it easy to actually reintroduce themselves to the environment.
  • Presence of organic matter in the ecosystem: This is kind of the same as the soil quality because plants will obviously find it very easy to grow if there is the presence of organic matter in the soil. The more it is, the faster the secondary succession is going to happen.
  • Presence of dispersed seeds: Of course, there are very high chance that there was seed dispersal before the disturbance of the ecosystems. It is these very tiny and easy-to-germinate seeds that will be left over to start the next generation of plant species.
    The more the seed presence, definitely, the higher the chances of the rise of the next generation.
  • Presence of residual living things: If there is even the slimmest chance that there are roots or plants underground that were left after the interference, then that means that secondary succession will, of course, happen way faster than you would expect.

Secondary Succession Examples: Pioneer Trees

The common feature among all members of secondary succession is the fact that they all live in places where communities previously lived and have most likely left behind nutrients to support their lives.

These places feature logged areas or those that have suffered from any form of natural disaster or human interference.21

The best part about these species is that they take a very short time to establish themselves and grow into large organisms.

The most common pioneer species that you will likely find growing as part of secondary succession species include:

It doesn’t take much to tell that these are huge trees, some growing giants. But does that take away from the fact that they are also pioneering species?

Not really? In fact, it makes even more sense that the secondary species will grow impressively tall because the land is not fertile and can be able to support more plant life.

What Is the Role of a Pioneer Species in Primary Succession?

You know by now that primary succession basically means the success of pioneer species.

Once the plants and animals are able to live in a previously uninhabited land then that becomes a primary succession because it is the first-time colonization of an area that was previously uninhabited.

You may end up asking, what exactly do pioneer species help with when it comes to primary succession? Read on.

  • Pioneer species are the first and only signs of life that colonize barren lands to kickstart the process of reclaiming them, otherwise, nothing would happen, and it would remain desolate forever.
  • By conquering foreign lands, the pioneer species get the chance to grow and reproduce for the first time ever in a whole new space, starting over afresh. They don’t really have to compete with other organisms for food and water.
  • When the pioneer species find their way on rocks and other hard surfaces, they are likely to soften the surface, and that definitely leads to the formation of soil that other plants can grow on.
  • When these pioneer species die, they are able to decompose and form organic matter. In so doing, they can be able to provide valuable nutrients that are needed by the next generation of plant species.
  • These plant and animal species do a perfect job to help pave the way for the growth of other living things. The process of colonizing new lands starts from the microorganism stage to grass until, finally, the land is able to accommodate the growth of trees.
  • In addition to that, the evolution from small to giant trees is also responsible for the introduction of various pollinators and other animal species.
  • When all these living things come together, the land will be well on its way to forming a whole new ecosystem, complete with complex plants and animals and of course, elaborate food chains.

Where Does Ecological Succession Occur?

The entire concept of ecological succession is pretty interesting. It makes you ask so many questions including, where on earth does ecological succession actually take place?

It is very fascinating that you can be able to find ecological succession virtually anywhere and everywhere on the planet, just as long as the location can actually support any form of life.

Succession can take place in various locations just provided that the prevailing conditions are favorable.22 For instance, there is succession on the sand, and that is called psammosere succession, while the one in deserts is called xerarch succession.1

Eye level view of vegetation on dunes, near the sea.

(Image: Orderinchaos28)

These are places where plants find it hard to grow because the conditions are not really friendly. However, pioneer species don’t mind that at all and will still be able to establish themselves in these regions.

On the other hand, there is also the hydrarchy succession which tends to happen in the water, and here is where you will find planktons living to the fullest. One thing that you should know about ecological succession is the fact that it is not always all rosy.

There are so many challenges and hurdles that the pioneer species must face before they can truly be able to establish themselves, reproduce, and die. For instance, it is usually a problem to deal with natural catastrophes because they have a tendency to revert the succession process back to square one.

The pioneer species may have strived to establish itself despite all the odds but calamity may strike and take it back to the previous stages. The organisms will therefore have to come back again and again, no matter what nature has in store for them.

There is also another problem of the new organisms actually negatively affecting the ecosystem.

It is a pretty common phenomenon when it comes to parasites and diseases because they can easily revert all the progress that the other organisms have made, particularly during the initial stages and that is scientifically known as retrogressive succession.

Therefore, don’t expect that it will all be smooth sailing. There are so many dynamics to consider when it comes to the reclamation of land by pioneer species.

Nature is so full of wonders. Can you imagine a land that was lost to wildfires or massive deforestation bearing life, and it is all thanks to some microorganisms?

Pioneer species are game changers when it comes to land reclamation because they don’t really need much and can be able to survive even the harshest conditions.

No soil, water, or nutrients? Not to worry because these species will be able to survive through it all.

The best part about them is how they beat all the odds just to pave the way for other plant and animal species to come in. No matter how long it takes, you are certain the land you believed would be gone forever can actually be reclaimed back to its former glory.

You can rest assured that there are species out there that can brave any deplorable conditions and survive that.

Thanks to pioneer species, ecological succession is possible, which means that barren land can grow massive tree species.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pioneer Species Plants and Trees

What Are Pioneer Species?

Pioneer species, just as the name suggests, are literally the very first types of species that are able to live in a land that doesn’t really have an existing sign of life. These plants and animals are the first to colonize barren and uninhabitable lands and make them home and also pave the way for other organisms to survive.

Why Are Lichens a Good Pioneer Species After a Volcanic Eruption?

The reason why Lichens, and basically other fungi, are excellent pioneer species after volcanic eruption, or any other disturbance is due to the fact that they are able to grow virtually anywhere. Also, unlike other plants that rely on nutrients from the soil, lichens are known to create their own soil, meaning that they can grow on the hardest surfaces like rocks.


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