Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ ecological succession

Years ago a large tree fell down at the bottom of our hill. It was too big to cut with a chainsaw, so it sat. Through wind and rain and snow and hot summer days - soaking up moisture - and now it is getting hard to recognize. Mosses cover much of the top. Leaves fallen and composted year after year have created compost that now provide a place for grasses to root.

Over time the tree is going through phases of decay. Mosses, lichens, and fungi push into the bark, furthering the process of decomposition. Later, other plants will take their place. As the wood rots and cracks, small animals will move in, carving their homes and nests.

Each group of occupants changes the log - making it suitable for the next plant and animal inhabitants. The process is called ecological succession.

What will our neighborhood tree trunk look like in two years? In five? In another decade?

Do you have a fallen tree, old patch of cement,  or patch of crumbling pavement that is undergoing succession?

What's growing on and in it? Can you see lichens? Fungi? Mosses? Are their plant stems stretching across the surface? Stems and leaves sprouting from the cracks?

What kinds of insects and other animals are using it?

How does it change over the next year? Document what you observe using photos, drawings, and notes.


  1. Sue I love this post. Each time I walk around our place i see interesting science things. We do have a large tree that fell about a year ago. You have inspired me to make a project out of watching this process. Besides journaling I am going to try and take a photo at regular intervals so I can put them together in a time lapse video. Let’s see if I can keep that up over the long haul.

    1. what a marvelous idea. We did that for a period of years while observing moss and lichens take over an old picnic table. We took photos quarterly (things move so slowly)