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A chronosequence describes a set of ecological sites that share similar attributes but represent different ages.[1]

A common assumption in establishing chronosequences is that no other variable besides age (such as various abiotic components and biotic components) has changed between sites of interest. Because this assumption cannot always be tested for environmental study sites, the use of chronosequences in field successional studies has recently been debated.[2]


Forest sciencesEdit

Since many processes in forest ecology take a long time (decades or centuries) to develop, chronosequence methods are used to represent and study the time-dependent development of a forest. Field data from a forest chronosequence can be collected in a short period of several months.

Soil scienceEdit

Chronosequences used in soil studies consist of sites that have developed over different periods of time with relatively small differences in other soil-forming factors. Such groups of sites are used to assess the influence of time as a factor in pedogenesis.[3]


Chronosequences are often used to study the changes in plant communities during succession.[4]A classic example of using chronosequences to study ecological succession is in the study of plant and microbial succession in recently deglactiated zones. For example, a study from 2005 used the distance from the nose of a glacier as a proxy for site age.[5]


  1. ^ Johnson, Edward Arnold (2007). Plant disturbance ecology: the process and the response. Academic Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-12-088778-1.
  2. ^ Johnson, Edward; Miyanishi, Kiyoko (13 March 2008). "Testing the assumptions of chronosequences in succession". Ecology Letters. 11 (5): 419–431. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01173.x. PMID 18341585.
  3. ^ Huggett, R.J (1998). "Soil chronosequences, soil development, and soil evolution: a critical review". Catena. 32 (3–4): 155–172. doi:10.1016/S0341-8162(98)00053-8.
  4. ^ Knops, Johannes M.H.; Tilman, David (2000). "Dynamics of soil nitrogen and carbon accumulation for 61 years after agricultural abandonment". Ecology. 81 (1): 88–98. doi:10.2307/177136. JSTOR 177136.
  5. ^ Tscherko, Dagmar; Hammesfahr, Ute; Zeltner, Georg; Kandeler, Ellen; Böcker, Reinhard (5 August 2005). "Plant succession and rhizosphere microbial communities in a recently deglaciated alpine terrain". Basic and Applied Ecology. 6 (4): 367–383. doi:10.1016/j.baae.2005.02.004.