Introduction: This paper surveys a framework for vegetation dynamics to provide conceptual background for a series of papers addressing the role of vegetation dynamics in restoration.
Richness of the foundation: Classical succession theory provides key ingredients for contemporary process studies of vegetation dynamics. The contemporary framework incorporates processes identified by Gleason and other critics of Clements' theory.
Multiple causality: The Clementsian causes, when expanded to include interaction and to clarify net effects, accommodate those now recognized in vegetation dynamics.
A mature successional framework: A hierarchical framework has emerged to evaluate the causes of vegetation dynamics. The framework identifies the general causes as site availability, species availability, and species performance.
Differentials as drivers: Differentials in any of the three general causes can drive change in plant communities. Each general cause consists of specific mechanisms.
A model template: To predict vegetation dynamics trajectories, models are required. A model template is presented to operationalize the hierarchical framework. Outcomes are contingent on species pools and environmental contexts and may be progressive or retrogressive.
Relationships of frameworks: Other contemporary frameworks in biology relate to vegetation dynamics.
Application to restoration: The vegetation dynamics framework is relevant to restoration through linkages with landscape ecology, disturbance ecology, competition, invasion ecology, and community assembly. The differentials of site availability, species availability, and species performance suggest the processes and strategies available for restoration.
Conclusions: A synthetic framework of vegetation brings together the mechanisms required for successful restoration.