Old-Field Succession Ecosystem

When land has been cleared and farmed and then abandoned, a more-or-less predictable sequence of species occupies the site as the original community is restored. Many species of plants and animals are characteristic of particular stages of succession, and the overall diversity is greater than in the self-perpetuating ecosystem to which the site returns. A typical old field succession in north Florida is dominated successively by annual weeds, blackberry and dog fennel, loblolly pine, and mixed hardwoods.

Old-field plots map

Map of the five plots that display old-field succession in NATL. To continually display the major stages of old-field succession, the plots must periodically be returned to a state that approximates a recently abandoned, long-farmed field. Plots A and D are "re-started" every 10 years with their first re-starts occurring in 2012 and 2007 respectively. Plots C and E are to be re-started every 40 years. Plot C was started in 2000, and Plot E is scheduled to be started in 2020. In order to continually display the earliest stages of old-field succession, Plot B has been divided into southwest and northeast portions (Bsw and Bne), with the portions restarted in alternation at intervals between one and two years.

Photographs of plots

The Old-field Succession Photo Gallery has an overview of the stages of succession and two historical photos. Semi-annual photos of OF plots A, B, C, D (2007-date) has summer and winter yearly photos of the four plots that have a corner at grid stake G4. The Photographic Record of NATL Vegetation has photographs that are taken every 10 years in four directions from every 50m gridpoint in NATL. The ten gridpoints that are within or very near the old-field plots are F3, G3, H3, F4, G4, H4, F5, G5, H5, I5. The photos taken at these gridpoints may be accessed from this map of the northern portion of NATL-east.

Management of Plots

A summary of old-field re-starts and plans for the immediate future are here. Details of management may be found in the NATL Operations Manual (pp. 9-12) and Old-field Management Log (1995-date).

Other Resources