A comprehensive framework for vegetation succession

Lourens Poorter*, Masha T. van der Sande, Lucy Amissah, Frans Bongers, Iris Hordijk, Jazz Kok, Susan G.W. Laurance, Miguel Martínez-Ramos, Tomonari Matsuo, Jorge A. Meave, Rodrigo Muñoz, Marielos Peña-Claros, Michiel van Breugel, Bruno Herault, Catarina C. Jakovac, Edwin Lebrija-Trejos, Natalia Norden, Madelon Lohbeck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Succession is defined as a directional change in species populations, the community, and the ecosystem at a site following a disturbance. Succession is a fundamental concept in ecology as it links different disciplines. An improved understanding of succession is urgently needed in the Anthropocene to predict the widespread effects of global change on succession and ecosystem recovery, but a comprehensive successional framework (CSF) is lacking. A CSF is needed to synthesize results, draw generalizations, advance successional theory, and make improved decisions for ecosystem restoration. We first show that succession is an integral part of socio-ecological system dynamics and that it is driven by social and ecological factors operating at different spatial scales, ranging from the patch to the globe. We then present a CSF at the local scale (patch and landscape) at which succession takes place and explain the underlying successional processes and mechanisms operating at that scale. The CSF reflects the increasingly broader perspective on succession and includes recent theoretical advances by not only focusing on species replacement but also on ecosystem development, considering succession as part of a socio-ecological system, and taking the effect of past and current land use, the landscape context, biotic interactions, and feedback loops into account. We discuss how the CSF can be used to integrate and synthesize successional studies, and its implications for ecosystem restoration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4794
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • biotic interactions
  • community
  • conceptual model
  • disturbance
  • ecosystem
  • land use intensity
  • landscape
  • socio-ecological system
  • spatial scale
  • succession


Dive into the research topics of 'A comprehensive framework for vegetation succession'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this