In this lesson, you will learn about ecological communities that have reached a point of equilibrium. Though rare in nature, these communities are unique because they are so well established that they exhibit very little change.
A Climax Community Defined
As an ecological community develops, it goes through a series of stages called ecological succession. Succession is a process that usually begins after a significant disturbance or extinction of an existing community. However, succession can also occur in areas that have never been colonized before. A climax community is an ecological community that has reached the final stage of ecological succession.
How Does it Work?
During succession, a community starts from a point where pioneer species colonize a new area. During this time, there is widespread growth of these quick-growing species. If this new development is in an area that has never before been colonized, this is called primary succession. If the colonization occurs where an area has been so severely disturbed that the original community no longer exists, this is called secondary succession.After this initial colonization, other larger and longer-living species begin to join the community. There may be many successional changes after initial colonization.While the successional environment becomes best suited to the species currently in the community, the community becomes stable and reaches ecological equilibrium.
This is the point where other species are likely inhibited from entering the community because it does not provide suitable resources and habitat. The community is considered a climax community once it has reached equilibrium, and the environmental conditions and species composition do not change very much.
Though a true climax community is difficult to achieve in nature, there are a few examples we can observe. The Sonoran Desert, which is present in both the United States and Northern Mexico, is one example. This ecosystem community is one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America and is home to hundreds of animal species and thousands of plant species. Many of the species found in this desert are very uniquely adapted to and thrive in the harsh conditions found there.
In Queensland, Australia, the Daintree Rainforest is another example of a climax community. This community is unique not only because it is so large, but also because it spans so much of the continent that it reaches the coast in certain places. This ecosystem has been preserved as a national park, partly because it is home to a large number of Australia’s unique plants and animals. Other examples of climax communities on Earth include the Rakiura Island Temperate Forest in New Zealand and the Namib Desert in Angola.
While difficult to achieve, a climax community is one that has reached its final stage of succession. There is little change in either the species composition or overall environmental conditions.
A climax community is rare because it has reached ecological equilibrium, and in reality, most ecosystems are quite dynamic and vulnerable to change. However, if after a long period of time, the community has, in fact, reached equilibrium, the community may be recognized as a climax community.
Points of Emphasis
|Ecological succession||a process that usually begins after a significant disturbance or the extinction of an existing community|
|Climax community||an ecological community that has reached the final stage of ecological succession|
|Primary succession||new development in an area that has never before been colonized|
|Secondary succession||the colonization that occurs when an area has been so severely disturbed that the original community no longer exists|
|Ecological equilibrium||after a long period of time, the community may be recognized as a climax community|
You may be prepared to complete these steps as you finish the lesson:
- Give the definition of a climax community
- Recognize the difference between a primary and secondary succession
- Provide examples of climax communities