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Primary or secondary succession in a desert?
Transcript of Primary or secondary succession in a desert?
In deserts, primary succession could occur on a sand dune or a fresh lava flow. Bacteria or seeds of colonizing species find a foothold where a microclimate offers a pocket of increased moisture and protection. These original colonizers form biofilms and put down roots that stabilize the upper layer of soil and break down rocks. The improved soil can hold more moisture and support other plants, which crowd out the original colonizers. Eventually the ecosystem may be able to support grasses and finally woody shrubs, if there is enough water.
Desert ecosystems can be disturbed by fire, flash flood scouring or land clearing. After disturbance, succession is set back, but the soil has already been developed. Secondary succession in deserts is relatively quick compared to primary succession, but it takes much longer to establish a desert community than it does in less arid regions. For example, in the southwestern deserts of North America, it can take 76 years to establish perennial plant cover and 215 years for full ecosystem recovery. If the disturbance is great enough, secondary succession may produce an entirely different climax ecosystem.