I was reading Information theory by Eleith, Odum and Golley from different sources, one of which was Funfamentals of ecology by Odum:

... autogenic succession usually begins with an unbalanced community metabolism, where gross production, P, is either greater than or less than community respiration, R, and proceeds towards a more balanced condition, where P=R. The rate of biomass production (B/P ) increases during sucession until a stabilised system is achieved, in which a maximum of biomass (or high information content) and symbiosis between organisms are maintained per unit of available energy flow.

The succession begins with P>R in autotrophic sucession and P<R in heterotrophic sucession.

I have tried to find explanatory texts both in this and other books without any success so my question is how's this balanced state achieved in both types of successions (the answer is hinted in the first paragraph which I don't quite understand)?

Related to my last post.


1 Answer 1


The author is saying that 1) Mature ecosystems tend to have a balance between production (=P) and use (=R, respiration) of biomass. This is actually tautological because the author would probably define a mature ecosystem as one where this is true (P=R).

If it starts out P > R, the autotrophs are dominant: more biomass is being produced than used up. It is possible, for a time, that P will increase as, for example, plants grow more leaves, but R is growing too, and there is an eventual limit on P, which at maximum depends on the light available to the ecosystem. As biomass grows, so does the amount of biomass to potentially decay, so eventually R will always catch up to P, until there is balance.

If it starts out P < R, that means you are using up biomass faster than you are creating it. This case is even simpler: you will gradually run out of biomass, and R will decrease.

In either case, when the author is talking about P = R, this is going to be in relative terms; there might still be variations between them, for example seasonal variation, but on average over years or decades you would expect P = R in a mature, stable ecosystem.


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