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Difference between Primary and Secondary Succession

Difference between Primary and Secondary Succession

In ecology, succession is the process of change in the composition of a biological community over time. This process begins with the establishment of an ecological community and ends with its replacement or dissolution. In between these two extremes, there may be several intermediate stages of succession. Succession can be primary or secondary. In this blog post, we will discuss the difference between primary and secondary succession. We will also look at some examples to help illustrate these concepts.

What is Primary Succession?

Primary succession is the gradual development of an ecosystem on a previously uninhabited site.

  • The first stage of primary succession is typically characterized by the establishment of pioneering species, which are hardy organisms that can tolerate the harsh conditions of a newly formed habitat.
  • Over time, these pioneers begin to modify the environment, making it more hospitable for other species.
  • As a result, more diverse plant and animal life begin to take hold, eventually leading to the formation of a fully developed ecosystem.
  • Primary succession often takes place over long periods of time, and it can be triggered by a variety of events, such as volcanic eruptions, floods, and landslides.

What is Secondary Succession?

Secondary succession is the process of vegetation reestablishing itself on a site where a disturbance has removed the existing vegetation.

  • Secondary succession can occur naturally ( following a fire, storm, or drought) or it can be caused by humans ( through logging, farming, or construction). The rate of secondary succession is determined by the type of disturbance and the condition of the soil.
  • Secondary succession typically proceeds through a sequence of stages, from pioneer species to climax community. Pioneer species are typically hardy plants that can quickly colonize an area. As the pioneer species establish themselves, they begin to modify the environment, making it more hospitable for other plant life.
  • Eventually, a variety of different species will take root, leading to the development of a climax community. Secondary succession is a dynamic process that can take many years to complete. However, it is an essential part of the natural order and helps to ensure that ecosystems are able to rebound after a disturbance.

Difference between Primary and Secondary Succession

  • Primary succession is the sequence of events that takes place in a land area where no soil exists.
  • The first stage usually begins with the accumulation of organic matter, such as dead leaves and small twigs.
  • This gradually forms a thick layer of humus, which eventually becomes the uppermost layer of soil.
  • Once this happens, Primary succession can be said to have ended.
  • Secondary succession, on the other hand, occurs in areas where soil already exists but has been disturbed or damaged in some way.
  • This could be due to a fire, flooding, or deforestation.
  • The first stage of Secondary succession is typically characterized by the growth of fast-growing weeds and grasses, which help to stabilize the soil.
  • Over time, more slowly-growing trees and shrubs begin to establish themselves, and eventually, the area will resemble its original state.


So, what is the difference between primary and secondary succession? Primary succession takes place when a new area of land is created, such as an island or mountaintop. Secondary succession takes place after an area has been disturbed, such as a fire or clear-cutting. The plants and animals that live in the area during secondary succession are different than those that lived there during primary succession because they have to adapt to the changing environment. Scientists learn about plant and animal migration and adaptation by studying both primary and secondary succession.

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