Succession. A short, terse word for something so fascinating and beautiful in nature. Though it sounds a bit harsh, you are clued into its ecological meaning by looking at the first part of the word – success.
Sure this word has uses outside of the natural world – some things happen in succession and businesses and boards plan for leadership succession, but the ecological definition of succession is this: the process by which a biological community evolves over time.
This may happen slowly over eons or within a lifetime or maybe even within a generation depending on the place and the community.
Two types of ecological succession occur – Primary and Secondary.
- Primary Succession – occurs in what seem to be lifeless areas – think lava flows making brand new land or rocks deposited by glaciers so long ago – or even buildings and structures created by us.
- Secondary Succession – occurs where there used to be a community but it was disturbed in someway and unrecognizable as it once was but there are small bits of the community left to give a head start to rebuilding – think forest fires, massive hurricanes, landslides.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the first of these types of succession – primary succession. I find myself most at peace near water and rocks – whether that is on a whitewater or quiet water river in my boat or hiking towards a waterfall. This combination of life giving flowing water and solid stable rock seem to ground me in the present, helps me navigate whatever’s going on in life. Being in these places reminds me I am but a small part of something greater and the most amazing things happen slowly over time and cannot be forced. I have been noticing a lot of life emerging from the seemingly lifeless, beautiful blooms adorning hard, gray, apparently inhospitable rock. Primary succession in action.
There are three lessons I take away, or think about, each time I see a plant growing, thriving, flowering in what seems an impossible location.