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Lessons from primary succession for restoration of severely damaged habitats


  • Co-ordinating Editor: S. J. Meiners.

*Corresponding author; Fax+11 702 895 3956; E-mail


Questions: How can studies of primary plant succession increase the effectiveness of restoration activities? Can restoration methods be improved to contribute to our understanding of succession?

Results: Successional studies benefit restoration in six areas: site amelioration, development of community structure, nutrient dynamics, species life history traits, species interactions, and modeling of transitions and trajectories. Primary succession provides valuable lessons for understanding temporal dynamics through direct, long-term observations on severely disturbed habitats. These lessons assist restoration efforts on infertile or even toxic substrates. Restoration that uses scientific protocols (e.g., control treatments and peer-reviewed publications) can offer insights into successional processes.

Conclusions: A century of studying successional dynamics has provided modern restoration activities with many useful lessons that are not being fully utilized.