Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ecological Succession (Part 2)

by Antonio C. Antonio
July 23, 2014

Over a month ago, I visited my daughter (Prof./Atty. Regatta Marie A. Antonio) at the University of the Philippines – Manila campus.  Walking from the parking lot to the faculty lounge, my attention was caught by a sprig of life along the way.  It was a small twig with leaves growing out of the pavement.  Using my mobile phone, I took a picture. (Please see photo.)  I should have taken a “selfie” but thought that my face or image was inconsequential to this very important find.  While taking the photo, my mind was already swirling with the term “ecological succession”.

What is ecological succession?  Ecological succession is a natural process of change in the species (fauna and flora) structure of an ecological community over a period of time.  The process begins with a few pioneering animals and plants and a long-drawn sequence of morphology which ultimately results to a climax community of living elements in an ecosystem.  I remember having written an article entitled “Ecological Succession” published on before.  In this article, I mentioned:  “There have been a few disturbances in the Philippine landscape in the last 25 years that could be considered as primary succession.  Notable among which is the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 that covered most of Central Luzon with ash.  The subsequent lahar that changed the flow/stream of the river systems in Tarlac, Pampanga and Zambales can also be included in this disturbance regime.  But if we visit these places now, there is hardly a trace of Mt. Pinatubo’s devastating eruption.  Other forms of disturbance --- floods, landslides and storm surge --- can be considered secondary succession since the presence of soil, which is the primary catalyst for ecological succession, still exists.” (Antonio, 2014)

The unique situation of the plant I captured in the photo is the absence of soil or just a thin film of it.  Although this still very characteristic of “secondary ecological succession”, this case is largely influenced by other factors such as: (1) the protracted rainy season and availability of water, (2) the abundance of sunlight and (3) the absence of any prevailing disturbance regime.  It should be noted that this solitary plant grew near an out-flow road drain which facilitates its access to water.  The initial disturbance was due to the laying of base course materials and the paving of the road with cement which covered soil.  But in spite of this, secondary ecological succession still happened as evidenced by the plant growing on top of the concrete pavement.

There are two basic types of ecological succession… primary and secondary.  Both types of ecological succession are anchored on the principle that forests and plant life will successfully grow (in time) and survive so long as they are not subjected to disturbances.  Tree planting (sans tarpaulins and photo ops) definitely helps.  But if only forests and trees are left to their natural growing order and not disturbed by illegal logging, slash and burn farming, land use conversion, etc.… they will regenerate.  Thanks to Mother Earth’s capacity to heal by herself in a process called ecological succession.

Just my little thoughts…

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