Ecological succession has a history of over 100 years in ecology. It refers to the way in which communities change over time, and the relative role of early- and late-colonizing species, disturbance, and life-history characteristics in shaping the sequence of communities at a particular site. After many decades of research the mechanisms underlying successional change in communities and directional species replacements are still fiercely debated, and many believe that succession does not adequately explain ecological dynamics. Nevertheless, several key examples continue to demand explanation and the search for generality in community succession continues. Perhaps one of the most promising avenues involves a modeling approach based on individuals of the community and the role of life-history traits among interacting species. The newly emerged field of ‘restoration ecology’ has shown particular interest in the ideas of succession as the management and possible restoration of degraded habitat demands knowledge of the mechanisms which cause particular associations of species to develop. Regardless of whether ecological succession is a highly deterministic force structuring ecological communities through time, or represents a more stochastic process dependent upon the vagaries of sequence of invasion of species, or it solely represents the passage of time, study of the long-term ecological dynamics of species and communities is fundamental to ecology.
It is remarkable that a subject with so long a pedigree as community assembly during succession should be so poorly understood, and so lacking in basic data. (Lawton, 1987, p. 240)