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Primary Succession and Pioneer Species

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

Primary succession occurs when new land is formed, for example, following the eruption of volcanoes, such as those on the Big Island of Hawaii. As lava flows into the ocean, new land is continually being formed. On the Big Island, approximately 32 acres of land is added to it its size each year. Weathering and other natural forces break down the rock enough for the establishment of hearty species such as lichens and some plants, known as pioneer species(Figure 19.26). These species help to further break down the mineral-rich lava into soil where other, less hardy but more competitive species, such as grasses, shrubs, and trees, will grow and eventually replace the pioneer species. Over time the area will reach an equilibrium state, with a set of organisms quite different from the pioneer species.

Figure 19.26 During primary succession in lava on Maui, Hawaii, succulent plants are the pioneer species. (credit: Forest and Kim Starr